Food for the Gods

I have a confession to make. I have a huge bag of dates hidden in my refrigerator. And my refrigerator is far from huge. It is taking up a lot of premium real estate in there, although, since I have shoved them to the back, C hasn’t noticed yet. It all started with a trip to a baking supplies store that lies off the beaten path. The type you have to make a special trip to visit. As you wander the small aisles, cramped with all manners of confectionary ingredients and tools, you realize you must buy something, more than something, because if not, wouldn’t your trip be a waste? After all, you made this trip especially for this store…were you going to leave empty-handed?

Of course not. So in your basket goes a bag of confectioners’ sugar, an oversized wire whisk, bottles of vanilla, cupcake papers, and a big bag of soft, dark, and very promising looking dates. I love baked goods that have dates in them. Actually, I also love savory dishes that include dates. I am no proof for their sticky sweetness, whether it be in a cookie or cake, or a dish of braised duck. So yes, buying this big bag is indeed totally and unequivocally justified. And besides, I already knew exactly what I wanted to make first.

Food for the Gods
(from Aileen Anastacio’s column, Yummy Magazine November 2008 issue, with my observations and comments)
  • 1 cup butter, cubed
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup dates, chopped
  • 1 cup walnuts, chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
- Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease and flour an 8”x12” pan.
- Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan on medium heat. Add the sugars and mix until combined. Remove from heat.
- Stir the butter-sugar mixture a few time to bring the temperature down slightly, just so that it won’t scramble the eggs (it will still be hot). Add the eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition with a wire whisk to make sure each egg is incorporated before adding the next.
- Add the dates and walnuts and mix with a wooden spoon (all the pieces will just gunk up the whisk so it’s best to switch).
- In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix well with a whisk (I always like to do this to get rid of lumps and make sure my dry ingredients are fully combined). Add this to the date-nut mixture and mix until just incorporated. Do not over-beat.
- Scrape the batter into your prepared pan and bake for 35-40 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean but not dry.
- Cool completely in the pan before slicing. If you’d like to be traditional, wrap individual slices in foil and cellophane. Not only does this make them present-perfect but it keeps them moist for a good while!

This was, without a doubt, an excellent vessel for my dates. This can be compared to, I suppose, a Blondie or a butterscotch bar…chewy and caramel-y in flavor. Take that, and then stuff it with dates and walnuts, and you’ve got (quite literally in my book) Food for the Gods. It is moist, dense, chewy, sticky, molasses-y goodness…shot through with musky bits of dates and crunchy nuts. These make for lovely gifts…or you can simply cozy up with a plate of them and a hot cup of coffee (and maybe even a real live date!).

The bag of dates still claims its spot in the refrigerator. I have used them in these luscious bars, as well as in a sultry dish of lamb shank adobo (recipe still being tweaked!), but there hardly seems to be a dent. I am definitely open to making both this and the lamb adobo again, but I’m likely to still have dates leftover. Any suggestions for my dates? :)