Fantastic French Canadian Date Squares

Here’s something easy to make during the holiday season: date squares. These wholesome date squares are good for you, so much so that you will want to have one for breakfast. And that’s OK!

My French Canadian grandmothers used to make date squares and back then, they were a hit. Today, they still are, especially among Canadians.

This week, when I made the squares, I veered away (well, just a little) from my grandmothers’ recipes. I made them without butter, flour and sugar and included alternative healthy raw ingredients.

From top to bottom, they burst with natural sweetness. My grandmothers would love these new and improved date squares and I am sure that you will too.

The wooden plank featured above was handmade by Jack Hamberger, a Secondary student at Institut International de Lancy. Thank you Jack for your kindness and this lovely gift! I love it!

Date Squares

Level: easy

Oven at 350°F / 180°C

Makes 20 squares

Ingredients

Date mixture

36 medjool dates, pitted (3 cups)

1 cup water

A dash of pink salt

1 teaspoon (tsp) lemon peel, finely grated

2 tablespoons (tbsps) powdered arrow-root thickener

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Maple sugar

Base and topping           

3 cups ground pecans

2 cups rolled oats, small size

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce

½ cup maple syrup

½ tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

½ cup rolled oats, for the topping

1-2 tbsp pure maple sugar*, for the topping

*Note: If you can’t find maple sugar, brown sugar or sugar cane will do.

Procedure

Line a 9X13 inch (23X33 cm) rectangular oven proof pan with parchment cooking paper.

Date mixture: Put pitted dates in a deep sauce pan. Add the water, salt and simmer on stove-top until the dates are soft and can be mashed with a wooden spoon (about 10 minutes). You may need to reduce the heat. Keep stirring and mashing. The mixture should turn into a thick, smooth and spreadable jam. It’s fine if you still see some small date chunks. After 10 minutes of cooking, remove from heat and add 2 tbsps of arrow-root powder (one at a time) and lemon peel. Stir well. Let the mixture cool.

Base mixture: While the dates cool, you can make the base and topping. For the base, mix 3 cups ground pecans and the 2 cups rolled oats in a big bowl (whole pecans can be ground in blender or food processor or you can buy them pre-grounded). Add the the apple sauce, maple syrup, baking soda and cinnamon. Mix well with spatula or clean hands.

Remove ½ cup of base mixture and put this into a separate bowl. Set aside for the topping mixture.

Spread all of the remaining base mixture on the bottom of the pan and pat it firmly and evenly with fingers.

Topping mixture: To the ½ cup of mixture set aside, add ½ cup of rolled oats. Toss and mix with clean hands or spatula. Add the maple sugar and mix again. Set aside.

Spread the cooled date mixture evenly on top of the base. Sprinkle the top evenly with the topping mixture, gently patting it down with your hands or spatula.

Bake in pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. When done, let the squares cool completely then cover and chill in refridgerator. Cut into squares and serve. Store leftovers in a covered container in refrigerator.

Happy Holidays!

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Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

2 thoughts on “Fantastic French Canadian Date Squares

  1. Hi Julie,
    I was thrilled to find this recipe! I lived just north of Toronto back in the 60s with my family, and one of our favourite buys was date squares in a boxed mix. We used to buy and make them quite often, and they didn’t last long! However, I’ve never come across a recipe before, and will definitely give this a try for our next coffee afternoon.
    Another favourite was Canadian Butter tarts – I don’t suppose you’ve got a healthy version of those! Lovely though they are, they’re rather heavy on sugar as I recall!
    Thanks for a brilliant site, I have posted a link on facebook so you should get some more visitors very soon xxx
    Carol

    1. Hi Carol,
      Thanks for stopping by and for posting a link on Facebook (I’m still not on Facebook!) We have lots in common. I also lived in Toronto for 10 years before moving here to Geneva and I’ve always loved date squares. I hope that this recipe will work for you. Will keep that butter tart recipe in mind and at some point I might try and convert it into something healthy but just as tasty as the classic Canadian version! Thanks for that idea! I’m so thrilled to be in touch with another Canadian.Cheers, xxx

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