The Great Cookie Experiment – Date Oat Bars

Julie’s back and she’s badder than ever!

The Great Cookie Experiment-Date Oat Bars

Next to raisins, coconut, and walnuts, dates are usually found on the list of least favorite cookie ingredients of all time.  Whenever I have talked about date recipes I get one of two responses.  Sometimes I’ll get someone who says, “Oh, yum, that sounds so good!”  Mostly I get a shudder, and a quick, “I don’t like dates.”  The funny thing is, when I serve something with dates in it, and don’t tell anyone, people eat it and like it.  I was excited when I got to this recipe in my notebook, because it came up on the same weekend as the church potluck.   I decided I would make a double batch of the cookie recipe, bring a plate of them to the church potluck, not tell ANYONE that they were date cookies,  and see what people said.

The cookies were pretty, and they reminded me immediately of my grandmother’s raisin bars.  Which nobody has a copy of, so please, if you knew my grandmother and have a copy of her raisin bar recipe, PLEASE SEND IT TO ME!  They immediately filled me with nostalgia even though they were made with (gasp) DATES and not raisins.  They have an oaty crust, and were filled with the rich fruit filling.  The taste was buttery and fruity both at once.  VERY yummy.  I arranged them prettily on a paper plate, covered them with plastic wrap, and proudly brought them to the potluck.

I have no idea if anyone liked them.  The potluck started late, and it was organized by a bunch of guys who didn’t realize that more people had signed up for dessert than main dishes (Jana’s note:  I brought peanut butter bars.  The next time I’m bringing steak…for me…and Julie…and maybe our husbands  😛  ).  We had ONE main dish, which was gone by the time I got up to the table, a handful of salads, several bags of chips, and plates and plates of cookies.  There were peanut butter bars, and pumpkin chocolate chip, and these glorious peppermint sandwich cookies that one of my friends always makes for every event.  It’s why I try to stay her friend, because it means I’ll get some at Christmastime.  It was also a very busy night, and we had people coming to our house about an hour after the picnic arrived.  With a typical late start, it meant that we had just a short time to chat with people, then leave to stop at a restaurant to get something to eat before guests arrived at our house.  I left the plate there with maybe one or two cookies eaten, surrounded by all the beautiful chocolatey type treats.  I have no idea who ended up with them in the end, if anybody ate them at all, or if people took one bite and said, “Eww, dates!”

I liked them, and my family didn’t seem to complain either.  There was one major flaw in the cookie- something I’m finding with many of these bar cookie recipes.  The crust is beautiful and golden and filled with whole grain oats, and they’re really crumbly.  They just don’t hold together very well, and if I put them in a sandwich bag to stick in school lunches, they will dissolve into a pile of crumbs before lunchtime happens.  I need to either improve my technique or find a better crust, and I’m not sure which it is.  Maybe both.  I don’t bake anything with standard all purpose flour.  I use a mixture of whole wheat and unbleached flour.  That could very well make the difference.   You may try these and have perfect results.

If you’re in the “I don’t like dates” camp, I urge you to overcome your hatred of the fruit, and try these.  You can even buy dates already dried and chopped so you don’t have to see the whole fruit if you don’t want to.  You may be surprised to find that you like dates after all!

Date Oat Bars

1 ¾ cups chopped dates

½ cup water

2 Tbl brown sugar

1 tsp grated orange peel

2 Tbl orange juice

1 tsp lemon juice



1 ½ cups flour

1 tsp baking powder

½ tsp baking soda

¼ tsp salt

1 cup cold butter

1 ½ cups old fashioned oats

1 cup packed brown sugar

In a small saucepan, combine the dates, water brown sugar, and orange peel.  Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture comes to a boil, about 4 minutes.  Cook and stir 3 minutes longer or until liquid is absorbed.  Remove from the heat.  Stir in orange and lemon juices.  Cool to room temperature.  In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Add oats and brown sugar; mix well.  Set aside half for the topping.  Press remaining crumb mixture into a greased 9×13 pan.  Drop date mixture by small spoonfuls onto crust.  Sprinkle with reservd crumb mixture.  Press down gently.  Bake at 325 for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  Cut into bars.  Yield:  3 dozen.

Date Bars


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