Stacy's Favorite Date Bars

Stacy is my very first mommy friend. Our babies brought us together at Donna Holloran's Babygroup when they were 8 weeks old (almost 4 years ago!), but our own friendship has deepened as we've stood by each other during both personal triumphs and setbacks, helped each other through starting businesses and cross-country moves. I call Stacy when I need the hard truth, a new way to see something or the words to say. She is not the friend who will let me wallow in my misery or tell my story without showing me the other side. She's a wise woman and a beautiful mother. She's a dedicated wife to her husband of almost 20 years and a devoted friend and I adore her with my whole heart. Even my husband - who doesn't like anyone - loves her, and that, really, says it all. 

Stacy also throws a lot of parties, dines out quite a bit and knows a lot about great food. When she tells me she loves my date bars, I have an inkling they may be pretty good. So, when she and her daughter came down for a visit last weekend, naturally, I made her favorite treat. 

Date bars are a delicious combination of chewy-crunchy-oatey cookie and sweet date jam. Some bakers add coconut to the date jam, but I add coconut to the cookie so that all the crunch and chew stays in the cookie and the jam is soft, warm and melty good. These also have a bit more date jam than others. Feel free to halve the amount of jam if these look too gooey. But, I mean, when is a treat too gooey?

Another great thing about date bars is that they're filled with natural, healthy ingredients like oats, walnuts and dried fruit. Okay, they're also full of butter and sugar, but you may as well complement that with wholesomeness, right? If you prefer, these can also be filled with 1-1/2 C any type of jam. Just stir the jam well to loosen it up, spread it atop the first layer of cookie and top with the rest. Bake as directed below. But, really, don't miss out on the dates. They're so...sweet. Like Stacy!

Stacy's Favorite Date Bars
The Date Jam
2 C chopped, pitted dates (I used a combination of Medjool and Deglet Noor)
1/3 C sugar
2/3 C water
1 t vanilla

The Cookie
1-1/2 C flour
1 C oats
1 C dark brown sugar
1/2 C toasted, chopped walnuts
1/2 C shredded coconut
1/2 t sea salt, crushed
1-1/2 sticks butter, cubed

Yield: 16, 2" bars

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter an 8"x8" baking pan. 

Make the date jam. Add the dates, sugar and water to a saucepan and bring to a boil for 5 minutes or until the dates start to break down and the mixture thickens. 

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla. Set aside to cool. 

Make the cookie. Stir the flour, oats, sugar, walnuts, coconut and salt together in a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and mix just until everything comes together. The mixture will look like lots of little flour-covered peas. 

Press half of the cookie mixture into the bottom of the 8"x8" pan. Really press it down and flatten this layer. Spread the date jam over the top. Drop the rest of the cookie dough in clumps over the date jam. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the edges are nice and brown (up to 40 minutes, but no longer or they'll be like bricks).
Let the bars cool completely before trying to cut into them. Once they're room temperature, slice them into sixteen 2" bars.
I use a pan with a removable bottom for my bars. Makes it so easy to press the whole batch out the pan and cut evenly without losing any of the edges.
Once they're cut up, these will stay fresh nicely covered on the counter for 3 days or so and frozen up to 3 months. 
Stacy loved them. I hope you will too!



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