To celebrate Mother’s Day, Melissa of the food blog breadandwords and I are teaming up together again. We are featuring recipes that our mothers made when we were young: Melissa’s Mom’s Traditional Argentinian Empanadas and my Mum’s Date Squares.
If you love empanadas, head over to breadandwords, to read about her Mom’s traditional Argentinian Empanadas. I am definitely making some of those soon.
My Mum’s Date Squares were one of my family’s favourite desserts when I was little. They were the best ever. The flavours of soft dates, a caramelized bottom and a crumbly oat and sugar topping is superb. With six of us in the family they never lasted long in our house.
These date squares are quite sweet and not overly buttery. The lengthy baking time caramelizes the brown sugar in the bottom layer which makes it chewy while the top layer remains crumbly. We always loved my mom’s date squares.
Mum inspired all of us in various ways. It was my her sense of adventure, I think, that always inspired me. She came to Canada 70 years ago, on January 17, 1949. She had bought a one-way ticket from England arriving at Pier 21, Halifax, Nova Scotia on a bright, sunny, wickedly cold day. At 28 years years old, and next to no money in her pocket, she was excited, free and full of adventure.
My Mum was always good at making the best of things. She grew up without a Mum and with a very stern father. You can read more about her upbringing here, with her bread recipe that I posted on the 100th Anniversary of her birth. I often wonder how she matured into such a happy adventure-seeking woman. But that she did.
Her two favourite past times were quiet, solitary activities: baking and reading. Reading was an activity she enjoyed ever since she was small. She loved to tell us the tale about hiding out in an apple tree, eating a large juicy apple and reading a book, while her Aunt hollered for her to come help with the chores. (She actually did really like that Aunt, she was just tired of chores that day).
My Mum’s other favourite past time was baking. Her favourite recipes either came from friends, my dad’s relatives or British recipes she clipped out of the newspaper. She would have loved Instagram.
If Mum could read and bake at the same time she was the happiest. I think she liked making date squares more than anything else because she could do her two favourite activities simultaneously.
I’m very fortunate that my Mum wrote down all the family’s favourite baking recipes. So it’s very easy for me to recreate them, although, I’m sure nothing is ever as good as when your Mum makes something for you.
While I was making these dates squares, I could distinctly remember how my Mum made them. After each step in the recipe she would curl up on the sofa to read while the dates cooked away on the stove, read some more as they cooled down in the pan and then read a little bit more as they baked in the oven. I think she had secret magical baking powers because she never used a timer but also never burnt the date squares. Or maybe each step took just as long as reading a chapter in her book.
Mum's Date Squares
- 1 pound dates (approx. 450 grams)
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 3/4 cup cold butter
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 2 cups oats
Preheat oven to 350 ℉.
Chop the dates roughly. Put the dates and brown sugar into a pot and add about 1 cup of water. Cook on a lowish heat until the dates are soft and spreadable. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
Place the flour in a food processor, add small cubes of cold butter and pulse about 10-15 times until butter mixture has fine lumps throughout. Place in a bowl and then add brown sugar and oats.
Spread half of the dry mixture in the bottom of an 8 inch baking pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Gently spread date mixture on top. Sprinkle oat mixture on top.
Bake in a 350° F oven for 30 minutes, or until golden on top.
Let the squares cool down in the pan for about 30 minutes or more before serving.