Uses Up: dates, cranberries, cocoa powder, oats.
I have always loved a good date square. However, finding one that is not too sweet can be a challenge. We always had a batch of date squares frozen in our freezer growing up, especially around the Christmas holidays when my mom (and I) rounded up all our favourite recipes and baked up a storm.
So when you are craving a good chewy date squares that is not too sweet, this is the recipe. When you are craving baking date squares but want to make them more festive for the holiday season, search no more. What if you want dates squares but are tired of the same tried and true recipe? I got you covered with this one.
Date squares typically use a combination of lemon juice and water in its sticky middle paste. Since it is winter, I wanted to make them more seasonal by using up the Mandarin oranges I have in me fridge. Since it is also close to Christmas, I decided to add dried cranberries to the date paste and raw cocoa powder to the base and topping. This addition went a long way in adding some tartness to the sweet sticky filling and it also rounded out the sweetness of the base and topping.
Food 911: Prevent expensive baking items like Mejool dates and dried cranberries from drying out and going bad in your pantry by freezing them. They will last in the freezer, for like, ever!
Cranberry Cocoa Date Squares
- 1 8×8 inch square baking pan
For the Base and Topping
- 2 cups large flake oats
- 1 cup AP flour or gluten free flour mix of choice
- 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
- 3 Tbsp raw cacao powder or cocoa powder
- 1 Tbsp orange or mandarin zest
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup softened or room temperature unsalted butter Vegan: use coconut oil or vegan butter
For the Cranberry Date Filling
- 425 grams pitted Mejool dates or 2 1/2 cups
- 1 cup dried cranberries
- 1 cup water
- 2 Tbsp mandarin or orange juice
- 1 Tbsp mandarin or orange zest
- Pinch salt
- 1 tsp orange oil optional
- 1 tso pure vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 350°F and line baking pan with 2 strips of parchment paper fit to pan. Hold overlapping parchment edges down with 4 binder clips. The parchment helps lift date squares from pan after baking. The binder clips help the parchment from moving around when having to evenly press date squares base down. Alternatively you could grease with butter, oil, or coconut oil to prevent sticking.
- In a large bowl combine oats, flour, sugar, cocoa, zest, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Then cut in butter using pastry blender or clean hands until blended. You should have a crumbly sticky mixture.
- In a large sauce pot combine dates, cranberries, water, juice, zest and salt. Bring to boil and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes. Take off heat and with a spoon or spatula mix in orange oil, if using, and vanilla extract. Stir until well blended and you have a date paste with chunky bits.
- Assemble date squares by taking half of the oat mix and pressing it evenly on the bottom of pan with fingers until you have a base. Then spoon the date paste mix overtop and spread out evenly. With hands, crumble over the rest of the oat mix to evenly coat.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes or until topping is golden brown. Let cool completely in pan (can refrigerate). Then using the parchment, pull all the squares out onto a cutting board and cut to desired size. Store in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 4 days or in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Freezer friendly for up to 6 months.