When I lived in residence early on in my undergrad degree, I had to suffer through breakfast, lunch and dinner every day at the campus dining hall. It actually could have been a lot worse — there was a huge salad bar, and an entire vegetarian hot food section. They also had some decent desserts, including my favourite: date squares. At the time, I think my girlfriends and I had deluded ourselves into believing that date squares were a guilt-free dessert option due to the presence of healthy ingredients like oats and dates. They definitely weren’t vegan (I was only vegetarian at the time) and I was blissfully blind to the butter, white sugar, and other crud they likely contained. But they sure were delicious, so I indulged each time they were on the menu.
It occurred to me yesterday that I haven’t had one of my formerly-beloved date squares in a long time, so I set out to raw veganize the recipe. This version is way yummier than the standard cooked/non-vegan variety, with way more nutrition!
Raw Vegan Date Squares
25 pitted medjool dates
1/4 cup water
2 cups almonds
2 cups raw oat groats, ground finely in a spice grinder
1/2 cup maple sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
1/4 + 2 tbsp coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
In a food processor, process the dates, vanilla and water until a thick paste is formed. Scrape date paste from food processor with a spatula and set aside.
Grind almonds into a coarse meal in food processor. Reserve 3/4 cup ground oats for later. Add all remaining ingredients and process until well combined.
Press two thirds of the mixture into the bottom of an 8 inch, plastic wrap-lined pan. Spread the date paste evenly on top of the crust.
Add the remaining oat flour to the remaining crust mixture, and process until well-combined. This is the crumb topping for the squares: the consistency should be more crumbly and less firm than the crust. Sprinkle the crumbs evenly on top of the date layer. Press the crumb layer down lightly – enough to make it stick, but not so much that it becomes too firm and compacted. Chill the pan in the fridge for one hour to firm up the date squares before serving.
Makes 20 date squares, at 258 calories/10 g fat per square. Given these are still somewhat high in calories, I think I’ll try cutting way back on the sugar and fat content in the crust/crumble next time, and let the natural sweetness of the dates shine through.