Last week, I did a bit of rearranging in the apartment. I moved a number of cookbooks to a shelf in our hallway so that I could make room for baby books in the living room (because let’s face it. Kids books are getting heavier use in my life right now than some of my more obscure cookbooks).
As I reshelved a stack of community cookbooks, a type written and stapled recipe handout fluttered out. The paper was yellowed and the page was annotated in faded ink. The first recipe on the page was for Date & Nut Squares. I stood in the hallway, unshowered and with babies playing on the floor, reading through the short recipe.
I had all the ingredients and 45 minutes before the next nap needed to start. I walked straight to the kitchen, whisked up the batter, and chopped up some dates and walnuts. Within five minutes, I had the bars in the oven (I even managed to take a few pictures!).
The finished squares are chewy, sweet from the dates, and have been a nice treat to have in the kitchen. What’s more, it was so satisfying to make something from start to finish in a single session (it took me a week and half to make a batch of lemon jam recently. This was a much shorter and more pleasing process). With each thing I make or bake, I feel like I’m reclaiming the bits of myself that having been set aside over the last year.
As I looked more closely at the handout, I realized that it had fallen out of one of my Aunt Doris’s old synagogue cookbooks and that the notes written in the corners were hers. She was among the first people who showed me that there was deep pleasure to be gained from cooking for your family and I think about her a lot when I’m in the kitchen. It felt like a little gift to have carved out the time to make a recipe that had come from her.
Since making this first batch of squares, my brain is spinning with ways to take the base recipe and turn it into something new. I’d like to do a batch with a medley of dried fruit that reduces the sugar in the batter (because really, who needs that much sugar when you’ve got dates and raisins!). I’ve also thought about making some that include some whole grains and seeds. I know that it’s a classic recipe and it feels like time to make it appropriate for the modern cooking age.
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (pecans would also be good)
- 2 cups chopped dates (or other dried fruit)
- Preheat oven to 325°F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan.
- Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla extra until glossy.
- Add the flour, baking powder, and salt and stir to combine.
- Fold in the nuts and dates and transfer to the prepared baking dish. Even the top and make sure to tease the batter into the corners of the pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the top turns golden brown and takes on a dull, shiny finish.
- Cut into 16 squares and remove from pan while still slightly warm.
- The squares will keep for up to two weeks in an airtight container.