South African Date Squares Recipe

The November 2014 SHW meeting featured member Barbara Bentley who shared highlights of her and Rex Johnston’s recent trip to South Africa.  They snapped scenic photos, shared adventures, and shipped back wine for us to taste.  Sweetly closing Barbara’s detailed presentation was a dessert wine made with marula that was accompanied by South African Date Squares.

SHW member Vickie Rosalli made those rich and chewy cookie bars.  Many of us asked for the recipe and Vickie offers it here.

The original recipe is published on the United Kingdom’s All Recipes website.  As we know, most US home kitchen recipes are in imperial-based quantities vs. the majority of the world’s metric-based quantities.  In adapting the recipe, Vicki meticulously converted the original quantities to imperial measurements.

Additionally, she interpreted and made minor adjustments in the ingredients so that we can make these cookies stateside.

Vickie offers hints for substituting easily available ingredients.  She writes:

“…recipes from other countries are always interesting.  Many of the recipes on this all recipes site have a link from the unfamiliar ingredients to a source to purchase them-that is how I knew what “Rich Tea Biscuits” were.  One brand is McVitie’s Rich Tea Biscuits that I could buy at Cost Plus!

… the tea biscuit package I found was 500 grams not 300 grams, so I used about 2/3 of the package.  Otherwise the proportions with the other ingredients aren’t correct.

…Desiccated coconut is a fine, usually unsweetened coconut, but I just used regular sweetened shredded coconut.”

Vickie Rosalli’s South African Date Squares

300 grams crushed tea biscuits (about 2/3 of a 500 gram package)

Generous 3 1/3 cups chopped dates

14 Tablespoons butter (1 cup minus 2 Tablespoons)

¾ cup granulated sugar

1 egg, beaten

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup shredded coconut

Crumble the tea biscuits (put in a zip lock bag, then crush with a rolling pin, leave them a little chunky).  Mix together the tea biscuits and chopped dates in a big bowl.

Cook the butter and sugar together until it reaches 240° F, about 10 minutes (Vicki notes: because the regular white sugar likely does not dissolve as quickly as the caster sugar and I thought the mixture would be very grainy unless I cooked it).

Cool cooked mixture a while (not too long or the mixture will get too solid to mix with the dates and tea biscuits), then add a little of the cooked mixture to the beaten egg, mix it quickly so the egg does not cook, then added the egg mixture into the rest of the sugar/butter mixture. Add vanilla extract and beat until mixed well.

Pour mixture into the bowl of tea biscuit/dates and mix well together. Press the mixture into a buttered 9” x 13” pan and press the coconut into top.  The Date Squares can be eaten immediately but are more solid after several hours or even overnight.

Note:  while the egg is tempered into the hot butter and sugar mixture, the egg is not thoroughly cooked.

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