I've been on dried fruit kicks before. During high school I had this strange fetish with prunes. Ate a lot of those guys. Every day. (Never could muster up the courage to try the juice though. Something about drinking a prune-flavored beverage just freaks me out.) And a little over a year ago I went through large bag after large bag of tropical trail mix. (The mango and papaya pieces were the best.) And an oatmeal raisin cookie is always a winner. But a date has never made their appearance in my dried fruit repertoire.
I can honestly say I have no idea what drew me to these bars. First of all, dates are ugly. I mean really ugly. I actually got a little squeamish when I dumped them out of the box. Secondly, I had no rum and I wasn't about to go buy a bottle for a single tablespoon! And I didn't want to substitute apple juice either because I am definitely not an apple juice drinker at all so the whole bottle would essentially be trash. What to do, what to do?
Then it suddenly dawned on me that I do have rum! Malibu coconut rum left over from my college days. It put just a bit of coconut flavor into the bars and really took them up a notch. The mystery still remains as to why this recipe went on my list of things to bake but I will tell you this: they were absolutely delicious and I want more coconut rum.
Makes one 8x8-inch pan
8 ounces diced pitted dates (about 1½ cups)
1 tablespoon rum
1 cup all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
1 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon sea salt
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup toasted pecans, chopped (I omitted)
Toss the dates in the rum and let them sit for at least one hour (up to 3 or 4 hours).
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line an 8-inch square pan with foil and coat the inside with non-stick spray; set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, salt, and eggs until smooth. Mix in the butter, hot water, and vanilla, then stir in the flour mixture. Use a spatula to stir in the dates (and any liquid) and the pecans. Scrape the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let date bars cool, then lift out the bars. Peel away the foil and cut into squares. The bars will keep for up to four days at room temperature, or can be frozen for up to two months.
Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker.