Date Bars

date bars

It’s that time of year, when I evaluate a variety of things in my life (not all necessarily food-related…), including the contents of my refrigerator and pantry, and go through all the corners and crannies, and clear things out. When I visited the Barbès market a while back, I got an amazing deal on dates, so good that I had no choice but to buy a few kilos of them. Because one doesn’t really want to eat a lot of dates all at once, I put some in a jar with some dark rum and let them sit in the back of my refrigerator. Where, of course, I promptly forgot about them.

Like Joe Yonan, who is Eating Down the Fridge, I’m trying to use up all those odds and ends lurking here and there at the moment, and decided to do some multitasking by making the Date Bars from The Homesick Texan Cookbook by Lisa Fain as well. Reading through the book, I recognized similar feelings of what it’s like to live outside of your culture, but wanting to recreate familiar dishes from time-to-time in your adopted city, whether it be New York or Paris.

dates in rum

Aside from these date bars, there are plenty of Tex-Mex dishes in the book that I’m eyeing to use some of the Mexican ingredients that I’ve got crammed in my cabinets as well, such as green chile rice, west Texas carne asado, and at some point, I’m going to have to finally take the plunge and drum up the precious amount of euros needed for a bag of masa harina in Paris and make my own tortillas (page 359).

eggs

This Date Bar recipe couldn’t be easier although due to their “Texas-size” heft, I could classify them more as a snack cake than bars. But don’t let their simplicity fool you – whatever you call them, they’re absolutely delicious.

Date Bars

Makes 16

Adapted from The Homesick Texan Cookbook (Hyperion) by Lisa Fain

You could easily swap out another dried fruit or nut for what’s called for, whatever is available where you live, or whatever you need to use up in your own pantry. Although the sticky dates really provide the best texture and I strongly recommend using them.

  • 8 ounces (1 1/2 cups, 225 g) diced pitted dates
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1 cup (140 g) flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 cup (200 g) sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter, salted or unsalted
  • 1 tablespoon hot water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup toasted pecans, chopped


1. Toss the dates in the rum and let them sit for a few hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF (175ºC). Line a 9-inch (23 cm) square pan with foil and coat the inside with non-stick spray.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder.

4. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth. Mix in the butter, hot water, and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Use a spatula to stir in the dates (and any liquid) and the pecans.

5. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let date bars cool, then lift out the bars. Peel away the foil and cut into squares.


Storage: The bars will keep for up to four days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to two months.



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Sticky Toffee Pudding

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How to tell if baking powder is still good

76 comments

  • Today I’ve watched the program food lovers guide to the planet where you were making a vanilla ice cream. That was amazing! specially when you put some chocolate strips on it. Looked like very tasteful. I’ll certainly make it.

    hugs from Brasil

    Guilherme

  • huge thanks from this canadian living in croatia (with a huge bag of dates sent from a friend in sudan) – will make this as soon as the rest of the holiday goodies have disappeared.

    ps. splurge on the masa harina. i’m jealous that it’s even available for you!

  • Perfect Avocado: Well, I did see masa harina for €8 a bag here, at Boca Mexa. But I’m just worried if I only use some of it, that bag might be around for a while. Kinda like the dates in my refrigerator!

    Guiherme: Glad you liked the program : )

  • I’ve got some medjools in my pantry that would be perfect for this, I only wish I had thought to soak them in rum like you….what a great idea. Bars like these are great for using up leftover nuts and dried fruits. Thx for passing it along. Happy New Year! – S

  • OK, you may have the answer to this question: Why ONE TABLESPOON of hot water? Seems such a puny amount. However, I have a date-nut bar recipe from my mother which coincidentally also calls for a tablespoon of hot water though it is far more bar like than your gorgeous picture. And since she really frowned on alcohol of all sorts, there was of course no rum in ours! I don’t have the same compunctions …. I’ll go with your recipe!

  • You have dates left over when it is the perfect season for sticky toffee pudding?

  • Yaay, a holiday recipe. And a light and easy one too with all the things I have on hand. I’m making these right away :-)
    And btw, I’ve tried about a dozen of your recipes till now and each one of them rocks.

  • I love dates! When I was doing an internship at Chez Panisse I really had a hard time not to eat them by the bucket, so delicious.

    I want to try and make this gluten free as I can’t have gluten any more. I will report back. They sound delicious.

  • Oh, how I love date desserts! I’ll be making this as soon as all the Christmas goodies are gone, so thanks for featuring this bar recipe. I’ve tried several of Lisa’s recipes on her site.

    Buy the masa. Corn tortillas are so easy to make and are quite similar in flavor to the ones I buy, but fresh really is better in a tortilla. I used the bottom of my sauce pan to flatten the dough after placing a portion in a plastic food storage bag with the sides slit open. It will work your muscles a bit, but it works just as good as a tortilla press!

  • I am jealous of your eggs.

  • Laura: I was going to mention that these probably could be easily made gluten-free, although that’s not really my area of expertise. I believe there is gluten-free oat flour (not all oat flour is gluten-free, however), which would be an interesting place to start, perhaps with something like buckwheat, or corn flour.

    Sharon: It may be to activate the baking powder and give it an initial “push” before the rise in the oven. It was in the original recipe, so I added it.

  • Dates dates dates. I love dates. I recently soaked mine in bourbon and made Drunken Date Bread. Ba dum dum. Drunken date. Your bars look delish!

  • Stunning egg yolks! These bars look completely satisfying, and perhaps I could use this to coax some of my family members away from their go-to date cake. Becoming well-rounded in all things date: New Year’s resolution #27?

  • i’m with chrissy above (minus the drunk part): dates dates dates, i love dates ! and since this pantry here is never without at least a few hundred grams or so, your recipe here’s a keeper. thanks !

  • I prefer to avoid date bars, and meet guys at the library or Whole Foods.

  • Date bars just like mumsy used to make..yumm
    oh please share your secret of where to buy masa in paris??

    I linked to it in the previous comment, above -dl

  • This girl is minus some dates, but the figs are hollering to be munched upon and this here recipe looks like it’s going to happen, soon, like after I go and spend my gift cards, ASAP, as in, clocks ticking….tic.tic.tic.
    :)

  • No way! I am going to put my dates in a jar and cover them with rum first! That sounds like a fantastic idea. Then after a while, I can nibble on them in the afternoon and NO-One can accuse me of drinking before 4 O’Clock! thank you.. perfect! c

  • Hi David,
    I’m afraid to add hot water (even such a puny amount of it) to the eggs as they might cook. Was it a concern for you too? I’m a beginner baker – that’s why I’m asking.
    Thank you,
    Yuliya.

  • I had an aunt who would make cakes at the drop of a hat. My uncle loved her date cake, basically a Maderia with dates in. As a kid I wasn’t too keen, but being a greedy oik, munched it down anyway. Now I’m the old one, my bit for imposing dried fruit on unapreciative youngsters is based on dates. As you know they are very popular in France, being sold in every supermarket in economy bags. They are great raw juts to snack on, but with only slightly more effort, they can be turned into a something to really savour. Requires a bit of planning though. Fill a big jar with the prunes, top up with some sort of spirit. Brandy, Calva, eau de vie – whatever you like. Leave alone for a while, remember the more you steal now, the less there will be when they are really rocking.
    Some indeterminate time late stumble on them in your cupboard. “Ping!” remember you are making dessert. Get a big tub of thickish plain yogurt, ordinary plain is fine as is low fat. Line a seive with a straining cloth and tip the yogurt in and let drain, over night is fine. You end up with nice thick scrummy creamy whop. Put into a dish and generously sprinkle soft dark brown sugar on top. This absorbs more moisture and melts into a caramel like topping.
    Spoon some prunes (and juice) into a bowl, a generous splat of caramelly yogurt on top. Et voila, a suitably adult dessert. It must be good for you, low fat yogurt, which you throw away a 1/3. Prunes which will help you loose unsightly stuff. Brandy which you always give to invalides and unrefined sugar. What’s not to like? Unless you’re too young to know better.

  • i am intrigued with the idea of putting dates (especially when i too overbuy those plump delicious ones in some markets) in rum…what else do you do with the rum …and the dates??

  • David – I want to be your sous chef. I will fly over with a bag of masa in my carry-on, sleep on the floor and clean everything for you. Just feed me.(I am old enough to be your mother.) Was that marble on your counter top? I took 2 pieces of marble out of an old dresser and they are on my countertop. Wonderful for pie crust rolling, to hold hot pans, cutting board, etc, though they dull your knives. Clean them with soap and vinegar which I use for everything.

    Yes, the eggs are wonderful. I can fortunately get similar ones here from a friend who free ranges her chickens. Nice and organgy. My mother made wonderful date bars. I will be looking for her recipe, but I will make yours for a New Year’s Eve party. And, I will be watching Midnight in Paris.

    I wish you a Happy New Year. Thanks for many delightful reads and the recent video. I pray God will bless you in the new year.

    Marie, Richmond, Va.

  • David,
    Hehehe! I feel a sticky toffee pudding attack coming on at the mere mention of dates!
    I assume you know about it already, others here may not. There is a great recipe for making pan grease to stop baking sticking to the tins. Half cup each of white vegetable fat, vegetable oil and flour. Beat well together until creamy and store in a jar in a cool place. Brush into tins as needed. Not only do the pans not end up with bits stuck on them but they don’t get gunked up with sprays or oils either.

    Sandra

  • I just made fig bread yesterday, now I am on to date bars today! Thanks for such a great recipe.

  • I would love to make these date bars…if I had dates around my pantry. I’ve been going through a macaron baking obsession ever since Thanksgiving.

    What I really do envy about Parisians is the access to beautifully orange-yolk eggs! I live in New York City and even though I do go to my local greenmarket, it’s never really *that* orange, more of a deep yellow.

  • Great adaptation! I can’t wait to get my hands on The Homesick Texan Cookbook. I bought a tortilla press at the grocery store (they practically give them away here!) and like you cannot wait to make my own tortillas!

  • I too have some dates that need to be used up. I put a bunch of them in your Persimmon Bread (as I also had persimmons to use up). I reserved 1/4 cup of flour while I was making the bread and tossed it with the dates so they didn’t stick together as incessantly. I also dusted my knife with flour. I love dates, but man are they stubborn.

  • what a great recipe, they look incredibly soft and moist it’s great to have this recipe because I just bought a whole bag of dates

  • Deanna: Dates can be a little vexing to chop into pieces (and I don’t like those “date pieces” they sell, because they are mixed with flour and are kinda dry) so I use scissors to carefully snip them. They still stick a bit, but it’s a little easier, I find.

    Tina: The yolks of eggs in France are always a dark orange color, even the industrial ones (although I try to get cage-free eggs, it isn’t always possible). I think they feed the chickens corn to make them that color, but I’m not sure. Whenever I go back to the states, I’m always a little surprised at how pale the egg yolks are.

    Carol: It’s took me a few minutes to get that one! : )

  • I have a pair of OXO Kitchen Shears and find they cut up dates, candied ginger and many other sticky things with ease…way quicker than a knife and no mess on the cutting board.

  • I love the message of using up what I have in my pantry. Of course I have a container of dates and promptly made the bars. My husband could barely wait for them to cool. A nice piece with whip cream on top. Yummy! Thank you for the inspiration.

  • Lidl sometimes have a “Mexican week” and sell Masa Harina at a more reasonable price than €8. Suggest you get on their mailing list so as not to miss it next time around.

  • Ah, dates. One of those things I tried only once when I was very young and promptly turned my nose up at…until a post like this comes and makes me question if perhaps I’ve been too hasty in dismissing it…

  • Oh, I am such a big date fan, and your recipe seems to be delicious. Have I already planned anything for tomorrow…maybe there will be date bars my agenda

  • I don’t see many recipes using dates anymore, looking forward to trying these!

  • Thank you for this and many recipes, David! After trying a bunch of your recipes (cake, tart, icecream and cookies), I concluded that your recipes are marvelous and marvelously foolproof! I also have a request: would you consider sharing a recipe for Bûche de Noël? It is a Christmas thing and a French thing, and will make many many of your fans eternally grateful :-)

  • Funny, I always forget my rum soaked dates as well!

  • How easily do you think this doubles? I have a party this weekend and I’d love to bring it with me.

  • Not a big date fan but just wanted to say happy belated birthday! :)

  • Hi David from sunny Sydney. Your recipe sounds a lot like our Sticky Toffee (or date) Pudding. I look forward to trying it as I am a big fan of dates & the Californian ones are readily available here. Happy New Year from Down Under.

  • Great goodness! Is the color of those egg yolks doctored? They are like small, orange suns! Just gorgeous. Another reason I would like to visit France and also have my own backyard chickens…for yolks like those. Ooh lala!

    • That is the actual color of the egg yolks (you can see a better/brighter picture here). Because it’s currently mid-winter in France, the overall light is rather gray and dim – but that is the actual color of the yolks.

  • is there an alternative to rum? would brandy work as i have some in the cupboard?! thanks for the yummy recipe cant wait to try it out.

  • David, is your “masa harina” the same as “harina PAN” ? I would think so, and you can get it much cheaper in the colombian stores in Paris, like Mercatienda Latina, at 78 rue de Dunkerque, or the other one in Place de clichy. Once open, you can keep quite long – simply protec the bag from humidity

  • Giant miam! These look much more decadent than the name “Date Bars” would imply. And yet simple enough that even I could pull them off…

  • These bars look delicious. I made your James Bear’s amazing persimmon bread. It is actually quite that amazing. Thanks so much for the recipe.

  • This recipe sounds like something my mum made but she also rolled them in icing sugar.Sounds great!!

    Those eggs look like our eggs we get in OZ .But I live in Alaska too and the eggies here look anemic !!!

    Moving south to stay this april!! freezing here !!

    sally Palmer AK / Panania NSW AU

  • When I wes a baby 46 years ago….for cocktail hour….I purchased that orange package of Dromadary (?) dates..cut them open, stuffed in half a walnut, rolled them in reguar white sugar and served them. The combo made a sweet/bitter and very tastey bit to compliment a good stiff drink.

    Gee, maybe I’ll made some for New Year’s eve!!

  • Hello,

    Not sure if this fits in but the unavailable answer to this question has been driving me crazy! I recently visited the amazing Flor de Michoacan in Tulum for paletas and ice cream and was reminded how much I love Mexican vanilla ice cream. It is not as sugary as American vanillas and my adult palette tells me that it is more butter. However, is it butter added to the ice cream or does the cream used have a higher fat content. Any insight into what the secret ingredient is to Mexican vanilla ice cream would be much appreciated!

    Should also note that I live in San Francisco and frequently eat Straus Creamery vanilla and visit Bi-Rite, Humphry Slocombe, etc. but I still find the vanilla ice creams in Mexico to be my favorite.

    Thanks!!! xx

  • Just finished watching Kings of Pastry. Believe it or not they had a copy of it in the library here in little ol’ Johnson City TN. I just wanted to know what your thoughts were about the movie. Maybe one day when you are having writer’s block you could do a little review for us. I want to know what someone “in the biz” thought about it.

  • European eggs–France and Italy, at least. Wow, you just can’t get anything here in the States to compare to the color and taste. I’ve tried free range organic from farmers in several states. Boy, do I miss those European eggs. It must be the terroir.

  • It’s amazing where you mind goes at times. I too am going to try these date bars to-day but the comments on highly colored egg yolks took me back to the early days of my marriage. My husband is from a small fishing village in Nova Scotia Canada and my mother in law always kept chickens. She fed them table scraps and garden excess and lobster and clam shells. The yolks were always bright orange, due to the pecking on the lobster shells.The lobster shells were also thought to improve the hardness of the egg shells.

  • I just don’t understand how one can forget dark rum soaked something sitting in the fridge :)

    Love dates and tend to eat them a lot now due to my hands having been slapped when I was a kid. When people went to the pilgrimage in Mecca, they brought dates back to Turkey, and they were offered to the visitors. As a kid, I did not have much status to ask more than one. But now I buy in big boxes and eat as I wish!

  • Perfect timing! I too am an ex-pat – I’m from New Orleans, but living in Mexico (talk about being homesick for food!). I bought a half kilo of dates 2 days ago for 30 pesos – that’s $2.15 US. They were so beautiful, I just had to have some. I made this recipe yesterday – they came out great! Now I need to go buy some more dates to keep in my freezer to use later in the year. They are not always available here.

    And while I can get masa harina for next to nothing (or pay 64 cents for a kilo of homemade tortillas), I’d hate to tell you what I have to pay for parmesan cheese imported from Italy. Yikes!

    Thanks, David, for another great recipe!

  • A happy and prosperous New Year to all! Hope your New Year’s eve is enjoyable!

  • I must confess, last year on a trip back to Switzerland from the U.S. I packed a kilo of Masa Harina. Savored each tortilla…I was tempted to do again this time but as I traveled just before Christmas and played Santa there was no room. Had to pay for the extra suitcase as it was…so now I too am dreaming of Masa Harina, deciding whether to pay 8 CHF for a tiny bag of it here..

  • Hi David,
    Thanks for the recipe. Just one (dumb) question: How do you toast the pecans (or any other nut)? Just pop them in the oven? (at which temperature?) or in the skillet?
    Happy New Year to you!
    Adrian

  • My dates are soaking now!

    Thanks David for inspiring me to bake again. I worked at a bakery after I completed school, but being at work at 2am was not my idea of fun at that time. Since grown up (well..), but I did learn the basics. Have and use all of your books now and also used your Paris Pastry app in December. Appreciate your hard work and have a great New Year!

  • I’ve got a hankering to look in the back of my fridge now. I definitely have preserved Meyer lemon that I haven’t used in months. Maybe its time.

    This recipe sounds terrific, I received 5 stellar cookbooks as gifts for the Hanukkah, I need to add Homesick Texan to my wish list.

    Wishing you a dazzling New Year, David.
    LL

  • Your Date Bars look amazing!!!

  • I love the idea of cleaning out the nooks and crannies. I try to do this often with meal planning, it saves so much money and it forces creativity. I also love this idea of soaking the dates in rum. Great ideas, thanks!

  • The cake looks wonderful.

  • I was recently listening to an episode of the Good Food podcast where a guest of Evan’s recommended soaking dates in vodka (filling a quart container with them, then pouring the vodka over the whole lot), then weeks later siphoning off the vodka as a cordial and cooking with the dates. It sounds like one could use those dates in this recipe as well.

  • David, made this recipe for xmas, very much loved by the men in my house
    thanx

  • I made these the other day. You’re right. They are yummy!

  • Just made these with alterations: The khadrawy dates I used are so sweet, I cut the sugar quantity in half. Still deliciously sweet! I used a blend of flours (by weight)–wheat, rye and buckwheat and substituted olive oil for the butter for a dairy-free family member. A superb little recipe, David! Thank you and happy new year.

  • These look delicious, I like using dates and cutting the sugar down (or out!) when possible. I finally found a shop that carries Masa in Sydney a while back… in 1kg bags. Needless to say there is quite a bit of left over in the back of my cupboard. May need to make corn tortillas again soon. Dates in rum sound like a much better thing to have squirreled away than corn products though!

  • These were a hit! Thanks so much for sharing!

  • This is the first time I tried a recipe from a food blogger and I’m glad I chose you and the Date Bar recipe. It didn’t disappoint! It came out really nice and delicious.

  • Well, it sometimes feels like I am “Baking with David”!!

    For our football party today I prepared the peppermint patty brownies (and made the patties from The Perfect Scoop, and the date bars.

    SO FABULOUS!

    I know one shouldn’t count dessert calories, but the date bars are 50% of the brownies and boy do they hit the spot for me. It was hard not picking at the chopped dates as they soaked though. Next time I will have to add extra to the bowl so I don’t short the recipe :-)

    Thanks for yet another excellent recipe.

    Oh, and I made the orbit cake then was at my favorite local restaurant a few days later and they were serving orbit cake- which led to a David Lebovitz recipe conversation- we both used Room for Dessert as a great source.

  • This is similar to something called, “Food for the Gods”, and instead of pecans, it has walnuts.

  • Hi David,

    Am no newcomer to your blogsite, I have tried quite a few of your recipes,simply delicious! except that this Date bar recipe,tell me how is a bar different from a cake, if they are different how can I convert this recipe to a date cake coz my husband loves date cakes,please let me know.

    Thank you

  • Those eggs are so lovely! I bet dried figs would work great in this recipe too. I happen to have a bag of them from Costco. The rest of my family don’t dig dried figs but maybe they’ll eat them if I bake them into these tiny dense cakes.

  • I’m thinking about making these since I have 2 1/2 containers of dates in the pantry, but I have one question: What could I use instead of rum that isn’t alcohol? I was thinking about 1 tbsp of hot water and a tiny bit of vanilla extract.
    What do you think?

  • Hi David……

    Its me again, the one who wants to know the whimsical difference between the date cake and bar…..Am just paranoid coz the date bar recipe uses only 1 tablespoon of butter!!!! Pls advice.

  • Pinto: That’s correct – it’s 1 T of butter.

    Rayna: Sure, that would work fine.