Date Squares is an old-fashioned, simple, sweet treat, easily made and served as a hearty dessert or snack. This particular recipe uses gluten free oatmeal, a little organic raw cane sugar, and raisins.
A date square is a Canadian dessert or coffee accompaniment made of cooked dates with an oatmeal crumb topping. In Western Canada it is known as Matrimonial Cake. In Eastern Canada and Newfoundland it might also be known as Date Crumbles. It is often found in coffee shops as a sweet snack food.Wikipedia
So, I didn't realize that date squares were only a Canadian thing until I did the research for this article. How sad that the rest of the world is missing out on a such a fabulous treat! Not only our butter tarts may have been hidden from you, but now also our date squares! Let's change that. I'm happy to share these fabulous gluten free dessert recipes with you.
This recipe has family roots that go back for decades. It's my gluten free, raisin-added version of the recipe my mother-in-law used to make. Date squares have always been one of my husband's favourite foods. He still buys one in a coffee shop when he sees it. So, back in the day, I copied out the recipe from the back of his mother's date package and then sometimes made them for him.
Growing up, I didn't think I liked dates. Their dense texture with sweet taste just didn't suit my palate. Mixing raisins into the filling of these squares has been a game-changer for me. In fact, this version of the classic bars has opened my mind to dates in general. And, yes, Charlie likes them with raisins, too. In fact, it was probably his idea to make them this way in the first place.
In more recent years, I have converted the recipe to be gluten free with the substitution of gluten free oats and flour.
I use Deglet Noor dates in this recipe. That's the common type that you'll usually find in the grocery store. Make sure you're buying pitted dates when you get yours.
You don't need to chop the dates. They'll break down as they simmer in water with the raisins.
Are dates good for you?
Dates are a great natural sweetener, and they're high in fibre. Fibre makes you feel full longer. They contain disease-fighting antioxidants as well as several vitamins and minerals. Some studies indicate that the Vitamin B6 in dates helps to improve brain function!
Are oats gluten free?
Pure oats don't contain the kind of gluten that most celiacs and gluten-intolerant people are concerned with. However, cross-contamination from wheat, barley, and rye are very common. We can assume that oats not labeled gluten free have gluten in them. Read more about that on my Start Here page.
Since this was a recipe for date squares with oatmeal, it was fairly easy to convert it to be gluten free. I use certified gluten free oatmeal in the pastry. Where a traditional recipe would use flour, I use gluten free oat flour.
The process of "cutting in" is often used for pastry making. Typically a solid fat (butter, lard, or shortening) is "cut in" to a dry, flour mixture.
First, whisk your dry ingredients together. Then "cut" the butter or other fat into it. You can do this by repeatedly slicing through it with two knives until it has become about the size of peas worked through the dough.
However, the process is made much easier by a pastry blender because it contains a series of little knives parallel to each other. Press and lift the tool throughout the flour mixture until the fat is reasonably well incorporated.
How to Make the Date Squares Recipe
Bring dates and raisins to a boil in water. Then simmer until soft. Allow the mixture to cool as you prepare the pastry.
Mix the dry ingredients and cut in butter with a pastry blender.
Press half of the pastry mixture into the bottom of a 8- X 8-inch cake pan.
Stir up the cooled date-raisin mixture and spread it all over the first pastry layer in the pan.
Spread the remaining pastry mixture over the date-raisin filling and press it all down firmly.
Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes.
Can Date Squares be frozen?
Yes, you can freeze date squares. First, cut into pieces. I usually cut mine into nine large servings. Transfer them to an airtight container, seal the air out, and freeze for up to two or three months. Thaw before serving.
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Date Squares with Raisins (Gluten Free)
- 8" X 8" cake pan
- ½ pound dates pitted
- ½ pound raisins
- 2 ½ cups cold water
- 1 ½ cups oat flour certified gluten free, if necessary
- 1 cup quick oatmeal certified gluten free, if necessary
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- ½ cup organic raw cane sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder gluten free, if necessary
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
- ¾ cup butter
- Combine dates, raisins, and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until dates are soft, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool to room temperature while you prepare the pastry.
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Whisk the dry ingredients together. Cut in the the butter with a pastry blender or two knives until it is worked through in pieces about the size of peas.
- Pour half of the dry pastry mixture into an 8-inch square cake pan. Press it down firmly all over with a flat spatula.
- Spread the date-raisin filling over it. The pastry will absorb any excess water.
- Spoon the remaining pastry mixture over the filling, and press down firmly all over.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes.