Schatzi: I can and will wax rhapsodic about Liliha Bakery (Coco Puffs! Hot cross buns! The pancakes! Real ice cream sodas!), and I go every time I have the chance, but I can also try like fun to replicate their recipes at home. Particularly since they’re roughly three thousand miles away from me at the moment.
One of my favorite treats from Liliha Bakery are their date bars. They are a humble treat, a bit homely and simple, but luscious and richly sweet;. They are sold in a homely package consisting of a paper tray in a plastic sack, and are dark, thumb-sized bars dusted with confection sugar, and at first site are rather unprepossessing. But once you put them in your mouth–! These are not a bar cookie like a lemon bar, with a crust and filling;they’re almost more confection than cookie, really. In fact, I’ve never seen anything like them elsewhere.
Idly staring at pictures of Coco Puffs and salivating, I began to think of the humble date bar, and how they’re never mentioned in the catalogue of treats at Liliha Bakery. It seemed unfair, and thinking about that also inflamed my lust for one. So I decided to try my hand at a recipe. All of Liliha’s recipes are secret, so I had to examine available recipes and decide what seemed right. I found several recipes for a different kind fo date bar (more like the aforementioned lemon bars), but that wans’t right. Then I found this one at Recipezaar. No crust, just dates, sugar, and binders. Also, the recipe dates to 1947, which was only a couple of years before Liliha Bakery opened, making it the right vintage. So I gave it a shot.
As soon as I opened my first package of dates, I realized what a mistake it was. You see, I have an intense phobia regarding certain creatures, and dates almost perfectly resemble them–a fact I try to block out of my head every year atChristmas when I bake with dates. Finely chopping a pound of dates was like living a nightmare for me. But I forged ahead anyways, and am glad I did.
The result wasn’t perfect. They’re very tasty, and the flavor is very reminiscent of Liliha’s date bars, but they’re not quite right. I will try again soon, and may use a use a food mill to achieve more of a pureed tecture for the dates, or I may try cooking them down slightly with the sugar and a little more butter for that proper consistency. Rather than chopping the nuts, I ground them in my little mill, which keeps them from altering the texture too much. There are no crunchy lumps in Liliha’s date bars! I also added a little vanilla to enhance the flavor, and will definitely do that againBe sure to slice the bars and roll them when hot, or the confection sugar won’t stick as well!
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon butter, melted
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 2 eggs, well-beaten
- 1 tablespoon hot water
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 lb dates, finely minced
- 1 cup sifted flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 2/3 cup pecans, finely chopped
- powdered sugar
- Thoroughly grease a long shallow pan. (I used my 8×12″ Pyrex.) Preheat oven to 350.
- Mix together flour and baking powder. In a seperate bowl, combine all other ingredients through dates, in the given order.
- Fold in nuts, then spread mixture evenly into greased pan. Bake at 350 25-30 minutes, until firm and lightly browned.
- Cool a few minutes, then cut into 3×3/4″ strips, and roll in confection sugar.