This old-fashioned date bars, a favorite of ours since we can remember, is from a cookie recipe handed down from Gigi, (our grandmother and great-grandmother, who was an amazing cook in her day)! When we would go visiting Gigi’s friends on summer afternoons, she always brought these treats to go along with their highballs and we can totally see why they were so popular! We were not given highballs, but we still loved the cookies! We love dates, nuts and oats, so they make us really happy! We made them a few weeks ago and once again, realized why we love them so much. The oatmeal crust with the gooey brown sugar-date filling can satisfy any sweet tooth, but they are not too sweet either! We have a “no wheat no dairy” option for these oat-date bars and they are great for breakfast too.
We always called them Waioli Date Bars, because the recipe came from the Salvation Army Waoili Tea Room in Honolulu, where they were served for decades. The tea room lived on from 1922 until it closed in 2014. After being closed for several years, it reopened in 2018, but when I called to inquire about the date bars, they said they no longer make them. Too bad! But now you can make them at home to enjoy it even if you don’t get to Hawaii too often!
A few years back, Courtsie was invited to spend Thanksgiving dinner with some dear friends of hers in New York City (Broadway shows close down for Thanksgiving, but are open on Christmas, so the actors love to gather on Turkey Day), and she offered to bring dessert. As it turned out, several people attending the event had gluten and/or dairy allergies, so she opted to make these with gluten-free baking flour and Earth Balance in place of the butter. They were all the rage, and Justin and Eric, the hosts of that dinner still make them for their special events. Nowadays, they just call them “Courtney Cakes”! We make them with butter and all-purpose flour most of the time, but it’s always great to have a gluten and dairy-free option!
Be sure to let the cookies cool completely before cutting them into squares. Once the date topping sets up, they’re easy to cut, but before that … ooh … you’ll have a big mess on your hands.
Waioli Date Bars
- 1 1/8 cups all-purpose flour or substitute a 1:1 gluten-free baking flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 1/2 cups quick oats
- 3/4 cup toasted walnuts and or pecans, chopped *optional, but highly recommended!
- 1 cup melted butter or use a dairy-free substitute such as Earth Balance
- 2 cups pitted dates
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup of water
- 1 tablespoon flour or 1:1 gluten-free baking flour
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
- Grease or spray an 8-inch square baking pan. Preheat oven to 350⁰ F.
- Place flour, baking powder, salt, and oats in a mixing bowl and mix well with a fork or wooden spoon.
- Pour melted butter (or Earth Balance) over the dries and mix well, until all butter is absorbed and the dries are coated.
- Separate out about 1/3 of the mixture for th topping and pat the remaining crust mixture Mix crust ingredients together and press into the bottom of a greased, 8-inch square baking dish. Set aside.
- Combine all of the filling ingredients in a medium saucepot. Cook over five minutes, stirring frequently.
- Pour filling over crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture over the top of the filling.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely, and cut into squares. Refrigerating the cookies in the pan before cutting makes cutting a little bit neater and easier.
- Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- We made these for our very first Cookie Connection giveaway and used this cute little holly decoration for a fun holiday version!