Is there any question in your mind that a single recipe can change your life? Not in mine. This recipe was and continues to be pivotal experience. I was moved when I first found and produced this bar cookie, and continue to be moved each time I make it, eat it and share it.
Many times when I am speaking to class participants about certain recipes (oven roasted tomatoes, creamy chicken nacho dip and others) I’ll tell them that they will make friends and influence people by perfecting the recipe at hand. The recipe for Cranberry Date Bars is absolutely one of those recipes. Sublime.
Crumbly layers of oats, brown sugar and butter encase a perfectly balanced tangy-sweet center of dates and cranberries. Finished with a simple, orange infused confectioners sugar icing, this cookie will continue to speak to you from the kitchen until every last one of them is gone (and the residual crumbs are gathered up with your fingers and crammed into your mouth).
Oh, how I wish that I could take credit for creating this little marvel, this crumbly confection, this richly rewarding jewel of a cookie. Alas, I am but the messenger. Found in an issue of Better Homes and Gardens ( www.bhg.com ) many, many moons ago, this is indeed one of those go to, party pleasing recipes that I have recreated in my kitchen for at least 12 years, possibly much longer. (The memory is the first to go.)
So now it’s up to you. Carry on the legend of a truly perfect recipe. Make these for your next party. Wrap up bundles for gifts for the neighbors this holiday season or take them to the office or PTA meeting. People will clamour to ask which high-end bakery produced these beautiful cookies. Your social stature will be immediately elevated and your tummy rewarded with a transcendent experience. You’ll be stocking up on fresh cranberries while they are here (freeze them so you can make them year round). Once the urge strikes you’ll not want to wait till next November to try again.
Cranberry Date Bars
12 oz pkg fresh cranberries (frozen works too)
8 oz package chopped dates
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour
2 cups rolled oats (don’t use the instant or quick ones)
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup butter, melted
Orange glaze, see below
Heat the oven to 350.
For filling, combine the cranberries and dates in a medium sauce pan. Cook over low heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently until the mixture is hot and the cranberries have popped. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients until well blended. Pour the melted butter over the mixture and stir until moistened and well blended. Pat out half of the crumb mixture in the bottom of a 9×13″ pan, firmly pressing down. Bake for about 8 minutes. Crust will be slightly puffed. Remove from the oven.
Take spoonfuls of the filling mixture and drop in dollops over the hot crust. Use a metal icing spreader or spatula to join the dollops into a smooth layer. Top with the remaining crumb mixture, sprinkling it evenly over the filling, then pressing down gently to adhere the crumbs to the filling.
Return to the oven and bake for about 20-22 minutes, or until the top crumbs are golden brown and the filling is bubbly and hot. Remove and cool completely. Once cool, cut into squares and place them on a large cutting board, separating slightly.
Grate the zest from an orange and set aside. Make a simple glaze with about 2 cups of powdered sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla and 2 – 3 Tbls of fresh orange juice. Whisk together to smooth out the lumps. Pour the icing into a heavy zip lock bag. Cut a small corner from the bag and drizzle over the bars in a diagonal zig-zag fashion. (Separating the bars on the cutting board and drizzling in this fashion will give each bar a look of individual perfection – as the icing drips over the sides. You could choose to leave the bars in the pan and drizzle them, but they will look better and be easier to get out of the pan if you handle them as described.)
Once you have finished drizzling, sprinkle the orange zest over the bars. You’ll get about 32 good sized bars from this recipe, more if you cut them smaller.