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These lovely bars are made with either wine, for adults, or with orange juice for the kids. Either way, these gluten free date bars are a wonderful treat. They are similar to their gluten cousins, Fig Newtons. A matter of fact, you can use figs in the recipe, as well as dried apricots. There a few variations that I have created and listed below including adding nuts, using wine (really cannot taste the wine – more like grapes) or orange juice as a reduction/filling, or spicing it up a bit with some ginger.
I ran across a similar recipe in Food & Wine magazine recently made with fig. I adapted it to work with my all-purpose gluten free flour recipe, linked below. Though it may be used cup-for-cup in many recipes, it usually needs some additional fat, as was the case this time. I just added 1 tablespoon extra butter. Many other changes were made, as well. Per Food & Wine, the fig cookie recipe originated from Hedy Goldsmith, the author of Baking Out Loud. Thank you, Hedy, for such a wonderful idea!
In a glass microwave-safe bowl or cup add dates and 3/4 cup water; heat for 1 minute; once cool enough to touch, remove the outer skin; add dates and water to a small sauce pan; add wine and sugar; simmer on low heat and reduce to 3/4 cup, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Add butter to either the bowl of your mixer or a small food processor and cream; add remaining dough ingredients; mix until a dough ball forms. With flour dusted hands, shape into a rectangle; wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for 15 - 18 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
On your counter; dust a sheet of parchment paper large enough to fit a half sheet baking pan with flour; unwrap the dough and add on top of the parchment paper; dust the top of the dough with flour; roll it out to a 12" x 9 rectangle.
Remove the top parchment paper sheet; with kitchen/clean scissors, cut the dough into 3 equal sections lengthwise; set in refrigerator to chill.
Remove date mixture from stove once reduced; chill in freezer for 5 - 10 minutes; puree in blender or food processor; set aside.
Pipe a strip 1/2-inch wide of date paste down the center of each strip of cookie dough.
Holding the parchment paper, fold each side on top of the date paste (this is done more easily up against the side of the baking sheet); folding the last section over or at least meeting the other side or overlaping just a tiny bit.
Cut each strip into 8 equal pieces; place cookies seam side down onto a parchment lined baking sheet; bake for 20 minutes; turn over.
If you desire a golden brown top turn over after 20 minutes and bake another 5 minutes.
Remove from baking pan to cool completely. Once cooled, store covered. They soften to a perfect soft texture overnight. Dust with powdered sugar or eat plain.
Medjool dates are large, therefore, if you are using store-bought packaged dates, measure by cup, not by quantity.
I haven't tried this with orange juice myself, but I would assume you would need to cut the sugar amount in half, or leave out totally.
Substitute the dates with figs or dried apricots.
Add your favorite spices such as ginger for a little spicy kick.
Add your favorite chopped nuts on top of the filling, though you will need to pipe less filling.
Spoon in jam, preserves, or marmalade, and skip the cooking and pureeing steps.