The bars began to disappear almost as soon as they were cool enough to cut but I managed to rescue just a few for a photo op. If you can get maple sugar, by all means use it in the recipe–if not, brown sugar will do, though it won’t contribute much to the haunting maple flavor.
Maple Date-Nut Bars
Makes 16 bars
- Butter for an 8-inch square pan (brownie pan)
- 2 cups chopped pitted dates
- ¾ cup maple syrup (dark is best)
- ½ cup water
- 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 1 ½ cups regular rolled oats
- 1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- ½ cup finely chopped walnuts
- ½ teaspoon baking soda
- 6 ounces unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
- 2/3 cup maple sugar (brown sugar is okay)
Liberally butter the bottom and sides of the baking pan.
Combine the dates with the maple syrup and water in a small pan. Bring to a boil and cook 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the mixture is like a loose jam. Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon zest, and set aside to cool.
Set the oven on 400ºF.
Combine the oats, flour, walnuts and baking soda in a food processor and process briefly to make a grainy mixture. In a separate bowl, beat the butter with a mixer to cream it, then add the sugar, a little at a time. When all the sugar has been added and the mixture is a little fluffy, add the oat-flour mixture and beat briefly with a mixer or a spoon to combine completely. The mixture will be crumbly.
Press about 2/3 of the flour mixture into the prepared baking pan. Use the spoon to press it firmly all across the bottom, then spread the date mixture all over the top. (If the date mixture is too firm to spread, return it to the stove top with about ¼ cup of water and let cook to a more spreadable consistency.) Finally spread the remaining flour mixture over the top. Transfer to the preheated oven and bake until the top is golden brown—about 25 minutes.
Remove from the oven but keep it in the pan while you cool it completely on a wire rack. Cut in squares when completely cool.