When I created an ice cream cake for my husband’s birthday a couple of weeks ago, I thought the no-bake granola crust would be a good make-over option for my old tried and true date bars — a recipe from my grandmother’s ledger.
I’ve dubbed the new no-bake dessert State Fair Honey Date Bars. They’ve not pulled a blue ribbon from the Minnesota State Fair, but I will be preparing the sweet new-fashioned, better-than-grandmother’s bars during a cooking demonstration I’ll be doing there on August 30th.
The crust of ground granola is held together with honey. A small amount of unsweetened cocoa in the crust offers an unidentifiable depth of flavor. Half of the crust gets patted into a 9-inch square pan. I used a square tart pan with a removable bottom. It makes cutting and serving the bars so much easier. A round springform pan would also work. The round shape is conducive to cutting small wedges to serve like pie with a scoop of premium vanilla ice cream.
I made the crust and patted it into my tart pan just before heading for a vacation in Chicago with our younger son and his family. Once we got to the flat we rented in Chicago, I stuck it in the refrigerator until I had time to make the date filling. A small bowl of the granola mixture to sprinkle over the top of the bars went into the refrigerator, too.
After days packed with trips to the Chicago Children’s Museum, the Lincoln Park Zoo, the Green City Market in Lincoln Park, train rides and bus rides, exploring the neighborhood by foot, trying new restaurants, playing at neighborhood playgrounds and even some shopping, I finally got around to preparing the date bars.
It didn’t take long to cook chopped dates with water. I flavored them with a little orange juice. If I’d been making this batch of bars at home, I would have added a sprig of fresh lemon thyme or a few lemon verbena leaves to the simmering dates. They can easily be pulled out of the cooked mixture before spreading it over the granola crust.
The date filling makes a thick layer in the pan. For my preferences, that’s a good thing. If you want less filling, just freeze half of the cooked mixture for another time. You’ll be surprised at how good it is served as an appetizer dolloped over goat cheese on crostini, garnished with a sprinkle of fresh herbs from your garden.
With my secret mixture of fresh herbs added to the simmering dates, I think these no-bake bars just might be worthy of a blue ribbon. Try them and see what you think. You’ll have to come to the Fair to learn about the secret herbal blend in the bars:)
If you plan to be at the Minnesota State Fair this year, I’d love to see you. Come say hi.
What: I’ll be doing cooking demos, preparing State Fair Honey (and herb) Date Bars
Where: Saint Agnes Demo Kitchen in the Creative Activities Building at the Minnesota State Fair
When: Thursday, August 30th at 3:00 PM and 5:00 PM.
You’ll find another version of my Grandmother’s Date Bars at this earlier post. Click here.
State Fair Honey Date Bars
- 3 cups granola
- 2 teaspoons cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons milk
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 pound pitted dates, chopped
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons orange juice
- 1/2 cup chopped, toasted almonds
In two batches, grind granola in bowl of food processor to fine crumbs. This can also be done by putting granola in a large zip-top plastic bag. Roll over the bag with a rolling pin or a can from your pantry until the granola becomes crumbs.
Place granola crumbs in a large bowl. Add cocoa powder, milk and honey. Mix with a wooden spoon or your clean hands until all ingredients are thoroughly blended. Press 2 cups of the mixture into the bottom of 9-inch square glass baking dish, a tart pan or springform pan. Set aside.
Add about 1/2 cup of chopped, toasted almonds to the remaining granola mixture for the topping. Set aside.
Put dates and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is the consistency of marmalade, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Allow to cool. Stir in orange juice.
Spread date mixture over crust in the pan. Sprinkle reserved granola mixture over the top.
Cut and serve. Makes 12 to 16 bars.