A few years ago I went on a mission to make a blondie as fudgy as a brownie—which was surprisingly hard to achieve without cocoa. My solution? Add dates for a squidgy texture. I’ve customized date blondies many ways, but this one, inspired by sticky toffee pudding, is my absolute favorite.
In my experience, unpitted dates are far stickier than the pitted ones. Removing the pits may seem like a pain, but luckily I’ve found a handy trick. To pit and “chop” the dates, use a pair of kitchen shears—a tip I inherited as a food stylist when I worked on a television segment for Nigella Lawson, who recommends this snipping technique when making her festive holiday fruitcake. Whenever I chop dates with a knife, somehow the stickiness ends up on half of the kitchen. Nigella’s way is much quicker and cleaner.
Since the bars are incredibly gooey, the age-old toothpick test won’t work to check doneness. When you start to notice some browning along the edges, they’re ready to come out. And if they look a little underdone in the center still, they’re just right!
- Prep time 20 minutes
- Cook time 30 minutes
- makes An 8x8-inch baking pan
(340 grams) unpitted Medjool dates
(170 grams/1½ sticks) unsalted butter
(107 grams) dark brown sugar
(66 grams) granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups
(150 grams) all-purpose flour
(100 grams) pecan halves, roughly chopped
(53 grams grams) light brown sugar
unsalted butter, diced
flaky sea salt
- Heat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8x8-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving a 2-inch overhang on 2 sides.
- Using a pair of kitchen shears, snip open the dates. Remove and discard the pits, then snip the dates into quarters.
- Add the butter to a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add both sugars and the dates. Cook, stirring frequently, until the dates have softened slightly and the mixture is caramel-like in consistency, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, then pour the mixture into a large heatproof mixing bowl. Let cool slightly.
- Once the mixture is cool enough to touch (still warm is okay), add the eggs to the mixture and stir using a rubber spatula until fully incorporated. Once combined, stir in the flour and salt. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Sprinkle the pecans on top and gently pat them to adhere.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, until the sides have begun to brown slightly. Transfer the pan to a cooling rack and let cool completely.
- When the blondies are cool, make the drizzle: Place the brown sugar, butter, and cream in a small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, while stirring, until the mixture has melted into a sauce, about 4 minutes. Using a spoon, drizzle the warm mixture over top of the blondies. (Note: You may have a little leftover, depending on how saucy you’d like them. It’s great rewarmed and served over ice cream or used as a coffee sweetener.) Once drizzled, sprinkle the blondies with the flaky salt. Let the topping set for 15 minutes before cutting the blondies into 16 squares.
- The blondies can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.