Lightly sweetened oats spiced with cinnamon and cardamom surround the naturally sweet date filling in these squares, creating layers of warmth and richness.Cardamom has the power to transform a standard recipe into something remarkable. Rice pilaf? Better with cardamom. Swedish tea ring? Adding cranberries and cardamom elevates it into a fragrant, beribboned wreath. And there’s chai, like the mix I use in Chai Chokadbollar, which is simply incomplete without cardamom.
I had a strong inkling that date squares would taste even more heavenly with a helping of cardamom. But first I needed to restock my spice supply. (And the best price for ground cardamom I found at Whole Foods of all places!) Even if I hadn’t scored such a bargain, with so many ways to employ it in baking this time of year, the bold flavor of cardamom makes it a spice worth having.
Adding cardamom makes these date squares into an unforgettable treat at his cozy time of year. Such homemade goodness begs to be shared with the people you cherish.
The first date squares I ever encountered were from my grandmother’s kitchen. She called them matrimony bars, and brought a plate to our wedding rehearsal dinner. But we had some of the biggest, richest date squares I have ever seen or tasted in Ontario, on the island where we honeymooned. My husband has been asking me to make them ever since.
Flourless Cardamom Coconut Date Squares
Base and Topping Ingredients:
- 2 cups quick oats, divided
- 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3/4 cup light brown sugar or coconut sugar
- 1/2 cup salted butter (or coconut oil plus 1/8 teaspoon salt)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1 + 1/2 cup (240 g) chopped dates, packed
- 1/3 to 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 3/4 cup light coconut milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- To make the filling, place dates in a medium sauce pan. Add coconut milk and let soak for 5 minutes or longer. Stir in coconut flakes. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and let cool to room temperature.
- To make the base and topping, add 1 cup oats, cinnamon, cardamom, baking soda, and 3/4 cup coconut to food processor. Pulse until even crumbs form. Add butter or coconut oil and pulse until larger crumbs form. Transfer crumb mixture to a large mixing bowl and stir in remaining 1 cup oats.
- Reserve 1 and 1/2 cups of the oat mixture for the topping and set aside. Into an 8-by-8-inch square baking dish, press the remaining oat mixture together to form an even base. Chill in freezer for 10 minutes until firm.
- Spread the date filling onto the oat base. Top evenly with remaining oat mixture.
- Bake at 350 degrees F (180 C) for 22 to 25 minutes, until topping is golden brown and crisp. Let the layers cool completely before cutting into 16 squares (or 9 squares for larger portions).