Nanny’s date squares

My nanny was a fabulous cook. I remember most of her cooking quite fondly, especially her date squares. When I was in elementary school, each afternoon I would walk to Nanny’s house, and she would be waiting with lunch ready for me. We would chat, and watch Batman and Fun House, and then she would waive me off, and sing, “Off you go, into the wild blue yonder!” as I walked back up the hill to school. I haven’t eaten a date square since she died.


Mom sent me this recipe (basically the Purity recipe, with extra dates). I opened the carton of dates today, and the smell hit me. I picked up my knife and put it down. I put the dates back in the carton. Then I dumped them out again. For a moment it felt like I was back in Nanny’s kitchen. But I opened my eyes, and there was just me, and a pile of dates, waiting to be chopped. Would these be close to my memory of her date squares?

Time required: 3 hr (2 hr is cooling time)

Yields: 48 squares

Total cost if you have none of the ingredients: $30

Cost per square: 62 cents


Kitchen implements I used:

  • 8″ square pan
  • tin foil
  • pastry blender


  • 1 lb pitted dates, halved
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar
  • ½ C water
  • 1 C flour
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ⅛ tsp salt
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 1 C lightly-packed brown sugar
  • 2 C rolled oats


1. Pre-heat oven to 162°C / 325°F. Line pan with foil and grease.

2. In a sauce pan combine: dates, sugar, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 min or until it reaches the mushy consistency of jam. Set aside to cool.


I worried that I scorched the dates, and put more water in them and simmered for another 5 minutes.


3. In a large bowl combine: flour, baking soda, and salt.

4. Cut in butter.


5. Cut in brown sugar and oats. My pastry blender got gunked up by the oats so I used my hands for this part.


6. Press half of the mixture into greased pan. Couldn’t take a picture of this as both hands were covered in food by this point.

7. Cover evenly with date filling. I used a spoon to smooth it down.

8. Cover with remaining topping mixture. It doesn’t really crumble, but you can pinch it apart and drop it randomly, it’s not supposed to be completely covered so it doesn’t matter if there are gaps.


9. Bake 35-40 min until light golden brown.

10. Cool completely before cutting.


Hmm. Looks right. Smells right.


Verdict: And tastes right. These were good; not as good as Nanny’s, but pretty good. I was afraid they would suck, and I would be sad. But they were good, and I was still a bit sad. But a little happy too.

Date squares are gloriously sticky, juicy, sweet, and a little bit crunchy. They go great with a cup of tea, which I am enjoying right now.

Playlist: Stateless – Bloodstream


2 thoughts on “Nanny’s date squares

  1. M says:

    I cried when I read this. And again when I read it to N. And now too.
    When you tell me something I’ve forgotten, “wild blue yonder” it’s like “your name is a golden bell hung in my heart, I would shatter myself to pieces to call you once by your name.”
    I’m glad you made them, thank you. I gave up vacon carmel cakes forever after she died.

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