Date & Raisin Squares

Thursday 17 December 2020

I confess one of my favourite things is Date Squares. My mother always made us Date Squares at Christmas! They were a once a year treat! 

My father loves raisin pie.  This delicious recipe for Date & Raisin Squares combines both of those loves into one delicious, buttery, crumbly, fruit filled bar!

I love these tea cups of my mother's. They have only ever rarely been used. I am not sure what the patten is. There are no real markings on the bottom of the cups/saucers. I tend to think that my mother collected them from washing powder, but I could be wrong. 

The pink rose buds on the side of the cups are very dainty and pretty. I remember my mother using them very occasionally when she had some friends over for tea, which was not very often. Mom wasn't the entertaining kind really.

She was an immaculate housekeeper and I think she just felt that she didn't have the time. I know she was never one for having people over for coffee or for going there. She wanted company when she wanted company.  I get that.

I like to entertain, but I also like it mostly on my own terms. I can remember when I lived in Calgary, my next door neighbor would land on my doorstep at about 8 in the morning and she would stay all day.  I didn't know how to get her to go home. Not really my cup of tea, that kind of life.

I could never do that to anyone myself.  People's time is precious to them, and I think that stopping at someone's all day without being invited is a huge imposition.  Tell me I'm not wrong in thinking that! 

I hate to think I am the only one who feels that way.  I hope I am not anti-social. I am just a person who likes to choose when I have or don't have company.

This recipe comes from a cookery book entitled Classic Canadian Cookery, by Elizabeth Baird. I have had my copy for  a very long time. Its not a large book and I managed to slip it into my suitcase when I came back to Canada.

Its a great little book. I purchased mine used a number of years ago, but I also remember taking it out of the library when I was really young and copying some of the recipes out of it into a notebook.

Date & Raisin Squares

It contains 300 + recipes.  They are largely based on the fresh ingredients we have available here in Canada, and it is also seasonal in nature.

Its marked into sections, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I love seasonal cooking. I had quite a few seasonal cookbooks in my collection. Oh how I am missing my cookbooks.

Date & Raisin Squares

 I apologise in advance for my photos today. I had to cut the square a bit before I should have done. Ideally you should wait until they are quite cold. I would even leave them to set overnight bfore cutting them for the best presentation.

But I was running out of light and I pride myself on presenting new content to you most days.  So in my eagerness, I did cut into them a bit sooner than I should have done.

Date & Raisin Squares

 These are fabulous, presenting to the lucky imbiber, the best of both worlds.  You get the incredibly short and buttery sweet and oaty crust.

Like a buttery, brown sugar oat cookie.  Crumbly, sweet . . .  buttery and  moreishly tasty.

Date & Raisin Squares

 The filling is magnificent.  Sweet and sticky.  Caramel flavoured from the dates, almost sticky toffee-puddingish . . . 

Then that stick toffee richness is studded with plump sweet raisins. I do so love raisins.  Especially in baking.  Dates too!

Date & Raisin Squares

The filling is flavoured with a bit of freshly grated nutmeg and some freshly grated lemon zest. Oh how I miss my microplane  . . . 

There is also lemon juice in the filling which helps to cut some of the sweetness.  Lemon and raisins go very well together.  So do lemon and dates.

It is absolutely beautiful sandwiched between that beautiful crumbly, buttery crust. Incredibly delicious I would say.

I can see squares of this served warm with scoops of vanilla ice cream on top . . . the warmth of the square causing the ice cream to melt and run down in little sweet rivers of lushness, into the nooks and crannies.

Date & Raisin Squares

 You can cut it into small squares when cold and serve it with lovely hot cups of tea. It would be beautiful on a tea table for the ladies.  I did so love giving tea parties. 

I wonder will I ever be able to give them again.  I left all of my china and stuff behind in the UK, the beautiful antique china tiered servers for sweets and sandwiches. My trays. Must not think about it.

Date & Raisin Squares

Life just isn't fair sometimes. But we have to deal with it and count our blessings where we find them. I am grateful that I had the time to use them while I did, and I hope that they are now likewise serving someone else in much the same way. 

And that they find joy in their use.  That thought brings me a small measure of comfort. It really does.

Date & Raisin Squares

I feel like I really need to change the focus of my blog now that I am back in Canada. I have worked so hard to make The English Kitchen a place of comfort and of good food.  But the original focus was on presenting "British Cookery" in a way that people could enjoy and understand it.

I know I can still do the same thing, but I am just wondering how I can do it without people thinking I am a charlatan. Misrepresenting things.

It would be incredibly sad to me however to lose what I have worked so hard to build. Not after I have already lost everything else.  I will need to come to some compromise between the two and then hope that my faithful readers don't desert me.

I have my thinking cap on.  I know that the book I had written and was waiting for publication I am going to shelve now. It hardly seems credible to present a book that was based on 20 years of lies without completely re-writing it and I don't think I have the heart to do it at the moment.

In the meantime, lets eat some delicious buttery,crumbly, oaty, sweet fruity squares.

Date & Raisins Squares

Date & Raisins Squares
Yield: Makes one 9-inch square cake, ready to cut into squares
Author: Marie Rayner
prep time: 1 H & 15 Mcook time: 45 Mintotal time: 2 Hour
A little bit different than the usual Date Square in that the filling also includes sticky sweet raisins. With its lush filling and that buttery oatmeal crumb crust this always goes down a real treat.


For the filling:
  • 1 1/2 cup (230g) chopped dates
  • 1 1/2 cups (230g)raisins
  • 1/3 cup (60g) granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 TBS fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups (355ml) boiling water
For the crumb mixture:
  • 3/4 cup (180g) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup (165g) soft light brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1 cup (240g) sifted all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/2 cups (201g) rolled oats


  1. Make the filling first. (I sometimes make it the night before as it needs to be cold to add to the crumb crust.)
  2. Combine all of the filling ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixure is thick and all of the liquid has been absorbed.  Set aside to cool.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180*C/350*F/ gas mark 4. Butter a 9 inch square baking dish. Line with some baking paper so that you can lift the baked squares out easily.
  4. Cream the butter until light and fluffy.  Beat in the sugar and the vanilla. 
  5. Sift the flour, soda and salt ogether and combine with the oats. Mix into the beaten  mixture to form big crumbs.  Press half into the bottom of the dish.  Spread with the cooled fruit mixture. Crumble the remaining crumbs over top.
  6. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until golden brown and set. Let cool. Cut into squares to serve.
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  1. Morning, Marie. No, you aren't wrong about wanting to have visitors on your terms. An 8:00 am visit that lasts all day is thoughtless or a cry for help. Your date and raison squares look delicious. My mom used to make date-filled cookies. I still have her recipe in her hand-writing. And she made date squares, too. Our lockdown here in Toronto is supposed to be over on Monday but now they are talking about even strictor measures. We are going out today for our fresh veggies, milk, eggs and flowers plus we need one more string of LED Christmas tree lights. I'm hoping Canadian Tire will still have some. Then, that's it till after Christmas. Hard to know what to do sbout your new book waiting to be published. I can understand you not having the heart to rewrite it. But remember, it wasn't your lie! Perhaps it could serve as a cautionary tale? Hope I can get another couple of hours of sleep before I have to face the day. Take gentle care. Love and hugs, Elaine

    1. What a treasure that handwritten recipe must be. Mom had a letter she had wanted to give my from her mother in which she spoke of me and how much I meant to her. I have no idea what happened to it. Such a loss. I hope you are able to get everything done today that you want to get done! We are expecting snow. Hoping to do the filling for the meat pies today. We shall see. Xoxo

  2. This china pattern is called Pink Hope, and it's made by Wedgwood. Mom may have gotten them in soap, but I believe it was bought as a set. xo

    1. Thsnks sis! You know more about these things than I do! xoxo

  3. You're not alone in wanting company when you want them and not otherwise. I'm the same way, I don't like uninvited guests or surprises. I'm not a real entertaining sort, especially if it is formal. Now, if we're having someone over for snacks or pizza, that's different. Sorry about your new book. These bars look absolutely scrummy! My mom would like them, she loves raisins. The cups are very pretty! Much love - Raquel XO

    1. I like to entertain, but on my own terms. I guess I am just funny that way. You are lucky if you still have your mother! Xoxo

  4. Like Elaine said, perhaps a cautionary tale. Keep the bulk of the book as is and add an introduction about that part. If you don't want to write such an introduction, maybe someone else could. It seems a shame to lose all the work you have done and the recipes would be still good.

    But *you* have to decide what you can bear to do. Best wishes as you adjust to your changing circumstances.


    1. Thanks for your input Julia, and Elaine for that matter! The recipes and crafts are still very good and I am proud of my writing. Xoxo

  5. I hope you will be able to find a way to still publish your book...maybe it has not completed before now, as this situation was coming...and at least if you make some changes in ways, you can do it in a way you feel comfortable with it!! The huge job in dealing with the havoc wrought in our lives by these awful people, is a tough do we still have goodness and meaning, and not allow them to take it all away? We are always in that situation here, because the pedo has access to the kids yet. That may always be the case for all we know, unless something happens to help people in this situation as our family is still...which in our country would mean a lot of changes to the law, etc. and that likely may not least not quickly. Meanwhile, we must be successful in having good lives!!
    Elizabeth xoxo

  6. I'd not be happy if someone arrived on my doorstep at that hour and stayed all day either. I don't mind an occasional surprise visit and will often then invite them to stay for a meal, but they have to be really good friends (or family - the kids sometimes drop in, knowing they will get fed here!) But like you, I like visitors on my own terms and that is not anti social at all.

    These sound really delicious - I love dates anyway. My mother also made date squares at Christmas, so it must be an international thing :)

    I doubt any of your readers will see you as a charlatan. That's your insecurity talking to you and you should never listen to that voice as I can tell you that she doesn't know what she's talking about. You spent two decades in England and did an advanced cookery course, worked as a chef and have a vast wealth of tips and experience with food. You aren't pretending to be British, just passing on your perspective on English food. Your blog has always featured food from around the globe - it's as multicultural as the UK! You have an honest voice, and every right to express yourself.

    The book is a hard one. I'd still be inclined to let it be printed, maybe with some editing of anything too personal that no longer applies. But I can also understand that it could stir up a lot of emotions that you don't want to deal with at the moment. But you wrote it in the UK, so it is again very much a snapshot of your English Kitchen. But only you know how you feel about it - everyone will understand no matter what you decide.

  7. Hi Marie,
    I once had a neighbour turn up on at my door at 6.30am after dropping her husband at the station, she stayed a couple of hours. I just didn't know how to get rid of her. After that we put a peep hole in the door and I didn't answer the door until at least 10.00am. I also lived in a small cul-de-sac and every morning after the mum's drop their kids at school, they would congregate on someone's front lawn and drink coffee for most of the day, they would pop home for more coffee and feed their children that weren't at school, needless to say I didn't venture out my front door. Love date and raisins so this recipe is one that I will be making soon.

  8. These look just delicious. I love oatey things. And as for an 8 a.m. visitor,I wouldn't go to the door -- and I sure wouldn't have let them stay all day. "It's so good to see you, but this just isn't a good time. Why don't you call next time?"

    How about "The English Kitchen and Beyond" -- A Culinary Journey through Countries I have Called Home." Because you had decades of the UK -- you are no charlatan! Then you could combine Canadian recipes with British -- and who knows? Maybe others. You've worked hard on the book -- I hope it doesn't need to be shelved. I don't know how much of your book is recipes and how much is stories, but maybe it needs to be set aside for a bit while things are so raw and then edited. Maybe edited a lot -- some of the most personal parts taken out, more on the recipes, less on the stories. Is there anyone you can turn the manuscript over to for some input, someone you trust to be able to give you a good assessment pr suggestions on how to revise?

    You can do this, Marie. Your recipes are strong, your writing is delightful. Don't let the past take that away from you, too. You've already lost a lot; don't lose this one, too. Biggest hugs.

  9. I love the idea of The English Kitchen and Beyond! It is what it is...and you have worked hard for it. We appreciate all of it!! And treasure it!

    1. Thank you so much Hannah! You made my day! Merry Christmas! xoxo


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