Mum and I shared a love of food and cooking, but it was only as I got older and had my own family that I realised just how much I had learned from watching mum in the kitchen as a youngster.
There are so many wonderful food memories that I have with mum, but one of my fondest was watching mum make her Date Slice. I loved it and it was my favourite, so I suspect that is where my love for the “sweet things in life” started.
With a celebration that we recently had in Sydney to say a loving and final farewell to mum, I decided to make her Date Slice to share with the family. The interesting thing is that now my tastes have changed a little … gone is the desire to have a thick slice, filled to the brim with dates, and sandwiched together between two thick – but delicious – slabs of shortbread. This brings back so many memories of the wonderful date slices you used to buy at various Health Food Stores … they were so yummy, but a true meal in themselves!
So now my tastes demand thinner portions of shortbread, crispy and crunchy, that sandwich a much thinner line of dates that are more toffee like, with a hint of salt (salted caramel toffee is what I am thinking of here). Adding the bicarb soda helps to soften the dates, and also gives it that slightly toffee consistency that I was after. There is also a bit of salt in this recipe … I use Murray River Pink Salt flakes which are much lighter in flavour to regular salt, so if you are using flakes then I suggest you stick to the amount in the recipe, but if using a fine sea salt then please be mindful and reduce the amount by half as per the recipe. And also … just finally about the salt … make sure you level the teaspoons and not round them out. Whilst I love the flavour of salt in sweet dishes, I don’t want it to dominate.
After a bit of tweeking here and there this is the recipe I have now settled on … and I know mum would love it too … because as she got older her tastes refined as well, and whilst she still loved her sweets, she liked smaller portions that were more delicate, and therefore more easily eaten and enjoyed with a nice cup of tea.
There is a bit of salt in this recipe ... I use Murray River Pink Salt flakes which are much lighter in flavour to regular salt, so if you are using flakes then I suggest you stick to the amount in the recipe, but if using a fine sea salt then please be mindful and reduce the amount by half as per the recipe. And also ... just finally about the salt ... make sure you level the teaspoons and not round them out. Whilst I love the flavour of salt in sweet dishes, I don't want it to dominate.
- 380g dried dates, pitted weight, chopped in half
- 150g filtered water
- 150g light muscovado sugar, or brown sugar
- 2 tbls fresh lemon juice
- ½ tsp bicarb soda
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes, or 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 250g butter, room temperature
- 300g white spelt flour, or plain flour
- 55g brown rice flour
- 125g light muscovado sugar, or brown sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla bean paste, or 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 tsp sea salt flakes, or 1 tsp fine sea salt
- Little golden caster sugar, or caster sugar, for topping
- Place dates, water, sugar and lemon juice into saucepan and over medium heat bring to a light simmer, reduce heat to low and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring often, until dates have softened (cooking time will depend on the size of your dates … the bigger they are the longer it will take)
- Remove pan from heat, add bicarb soda and stir well (it will bubble up)
- Wait a couple of minutes for bubbling to subside a little, then add the salt and stir well
- Put date mix into a flattish container (if the filling is spread out it will cool quicker) and allow to cool completely before using (it usually takes about an hour)
- Whilst the filling is cooling, make the shortbread dough
- Place all the ingredients into the TM bowl and mix 10 seconds / speed 6, scrape around bowl and repeat 10 seconds / speed 6
- Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured bench and bring together
- Dough should weigh approximately 760g, so divide mixture into two pieces keeping 300g for the topping, and use the rest for the base … shape each portion into a disk, wrap in Glad Wrap and refrigerate for 45 to 60 minutes
- When you are ready to bring the slice together, preheat oven to 150 degrees, fan forced, and place rack into middle of oven
- Line a large slice tin, base measurement 20cm x 30cm, with baking paper, allowing the paper to drape a little over the long side (this will help to remove the cooked slice from the tin)
- Leave the top dough in the fridge for now, and remove the base dough and unwrap
- Lightly sprinkle flour on your bench and on top of the piece of dough, then roll dough out so that it is large enough to cover the base of the slice tin (place tin on top of rolled out dough to check size)
- Using the rolling pin, lift the dough (dough is very short so may break up a little but that is okay) and line the base of the tin … use your fingers to join any breaks pressing the dough portions together, then lightly run over the dough with the back of a spoon to even it out
- Spread the cooled date mixture over the base, again using the back of a spoon to spread it out evenly
- Remove the second lot of dough from the fridge, and grate it with a cheese grater
- Working quickly, scatter the grated pieces randomly over the top (if you allow the grated dough to sit on the bench for too long, it will start to stick together and you will lose the effect of the grated topping)
- Once all the topping is on, use a fork to lightly position the dough so that it is relatively evenly spread out and you have covered the top right up to the edges
- Sprinkle the topping with a little caster sugar
- Place tray into oven and bake 25 minutes, turn tray around and continue for another 25 minutes until the top is a light golden colour
- Remove from oven and allow slice to cool completely in the tin, then refrigerate for an hour or so to make it easier to cut neatly
- When ready to cut, use the overhanging baking paper to lift the slice out of the tin onto a cutting board, and cut into desired pieces (I like to do 24 pieces, so cut 6 lines across and 4 lines down)
- Store in fridge where it will keep for at least a week