Saturday, July 15, 2006

A Date for the Weekend

I know most people don't think plants talk. It seems pretty far-fetched, I agree.

But let me tell you, when you've got a gallon bucket of blueberries sitting in the refrigerator, they can kick up quite a fuss in their demands to be used in baking.

What are you going to do? As for me, I heed the call and bake.

I've been wanting to make blueberry-date bars again ever since I created the recipe last year, and I thought this morning was as good a time as any to indulge myself.

I mixed up the shortbread dough for the base and pressed it into the pan, simmered the berries and dates together, and crumbled together the streusel ingredients all before heading downtown to the farmers' market. And when I returned home, I cranked up the oven, threw everything together, and let it bake.

Ah yes, sweet, sweet blueberry goodness.

I just love how the berries and dates meld together in a rich, sweet, darkly inviting luscious texture and flavor, enhanced by the merest touch of vanilla and almond extracts. And I love how the good local whole grains, maple sugar, and sweet cardamom pull it all together.

And though I know I'll need to save some for certain friends in the coming week, I immediately packaged a few to give to friends I'll see this weekend, people who have been extraordinarily supportive this week.

Don’t worry, I'll save some for myself.

I always enjoy a sweet date, especially one as comforting as this.

Blueberry-Date Bars

I love date bars that have a thick, satisfyingly buttery crust, lots of rich date flavor, and a sweet but spicy streusel on top... but I've been looking for the perfect recipe for years without much luck. I've finally come up with something a little untraditional, combining a recipe from Bon Appetit (shared by Dear Reader Tina) for candied ginger-cardamom bars and a date bar recipe from Uprisings (a whole grain baking book) as well as a little "what if?" on my part when faced with more blueberries than I could shake a bucket at...

1 c whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c maple sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/4 c finely chopped crystallized ginger

1 c dates, pitted and chopped
1 c blueberries
1/2 c water
1 tsp vanilla
a few drops of real almond extract

1/4 c rolled oats
2 T maple sugar
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
2 T candied diced ginger
1 T melted butter or canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To make the crust, whisk together the flour, sugar, salt, and cardamom. Blend in butter with a pastry cutter until small lumps form. Add ginger, then work the dough so that it starts to stick together. Press into a greased 9" square baking dish. Set aside.

To make the filling, place the dates, blueberries, and water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then simmer for 10-15 minutes. Allow to cool; then add extracts. Pour on top of crust and spread to the sides.

To make the streusel, mix the oats, sugar, cardamom, and ginger. Pour in the butter or oil and toss with your fingertips to mix. Sprinkle over the fruit filling.

Bake for 35 minutes until filling is well set. Remove from oven and allow to cool before cutting into squares.

Makes 16 2" squares


At 7/17/2006 5:33 PM, Blogger Tina said...

I'm so glad you're getting so much enjoyment and inspiration out of the recipe I sent you! Your recipe sounds wonderful, the perfect comfort food!

At 7/18/2006 7:45 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

Oh, it is! Wish I could send you some, but, uh, well, they're all gone... ;-)

And it's easy enough to tinker with this variation, too, changing fruits and spices around.... so I definitely think you need to try it!

Thanks yet again for a terrific and inspiring recipe!

At 7/20/2006 7:58 PM, Blogger Spicyflower said...

did you do anything blueberry and eggplant oriented?

At 7/21/2006 6:59 AM, Blogger The Baklava Queen said...

I did, but it needs a little more... something. A tasty combination, though! Will post once I've worked it out...


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