I began dreaming of these maple-date bars several weeks ago. I was craving something hearty, rich and completely satisfying. Something with a natural, earthy sweetness that conjured up images of early spring and melting snow. Like a walk through a sleeping forest, just before a brilliant spring awakening. I began searching my recipe files and Pinterest in search of a dessert bar that didn’t contain processed sugar. Can you believe I couldn’t find any?! So I created these. A thick and chewy date bar that tastes of maple through and through. The crust, the sticky date filling, and even the dollop of thick cream on top are all sweetened with maple syrup. Just a touch. And since there’s absolutely no processed sugar, you can feel just a little better about serving these to your kids, and if you’re lucky, about eating them for breakfast the next morning.
Maple-Date Bars with Maple Sweetened Cream
For the filling:
1 3/4 cup pitted, chopped dates (about 8 oz)
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 tsp orange extract
For the crust:
1 cup butter, very soft (nearly melted)
2/3 cup pure maple syrup (room temperature or slightly warmer)
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour mix)
1 1/2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp coarse fleur de sel or French gray salt
For the cream:
1 cup heavy cream
1 Tablespoon pure maple syrup
Preheat your oven to 400 F (200 C). Generously butter a 13 x 9 inch baking pan. Prepare the filling by mixing the water, dates, and 2 Tbsp maple syrup in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil and simmer for 7 minutes, until the mixture is very thick and resembles jam. Remove from the heat and stir in the orange extract. Set aside while you prepare the crust.
In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and 2/3 cup maple syrup together until smooth. (Make sure the syrup is at room temp. or warmer to keep the butter from congealing). Stir in the flour, oats, baking soda, and fine sea salt. The mixture will be moist and sticky. Using your fingers, spread and press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the greased baking dish (it helps if your fingers are slightly damp). Spread the date filling evenly over top. Spread the remaining dough on top of the filling with damp fingers. It’s fine if some of the filling shows through. Sprinkle the fleur de sel on top.
Bake for 25 minutes. Allow to cool before slicing into 18 bars.
When ready to serve, combine the cream and maple syrup in a cold bowl. Whisk until the cream has some body, but can still be poured. Top each bar with a drizzle of the maple cream.
Rebecca Hirt is the mother of two children with severe allergies, who strives to show other parents how they can live a beautiful life with food allergies, with recipes and tips on her site Pure and Peanut Free.