Montego Bay Bars

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The other weekend the weather turned from summer to fall and I wanted to bake something but didn’t know what I wanted to bake. I didn’t want cookies, it wasn’t a cake I had in mind, I wanted something slightly fruity but also a bit of chocolate. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on baking and I didn’t want a lot of ingredients.

I looked through old recipes I had filed away and at blogs, but what I was looking for eluded me. That brought me to the tried and true 1976 Betty Crocker cookbook that always lived on the thick wood book shelves in my mother’s kitchen and now lives on a narrow wood bookshelf in my hall. Before the internet or as my mom called it “Mr Google” there was the Betty Crocker cookbook. It could teach you how to make rice, roast a chicken, or decorate a cake, all in one book everything was there in the yellowing pages that are starting to separate from the spine of the book. I leafed through and fell on Montego Bay Bars…and just like that I knew. This was what I had been looking for!

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I had never made these growing up, there is no emotional story to connect to, I had first heard of these bars at a favorite Brooklyn bakery but had never felt more then a curiosity towards them. But as I read they seemed perfect – the centers were chocolate and slightly jammy from dates, the crumb was easy and I had most of the ingredients on hand, and they were fast and uncomplicated. I made them and felt jubilant at finding exactly what it had been I was looking for.

Indeed these bars were so good I gushed about them to Anne who shortly there after made them herself. The recipe has been altered slightly, Anne thought we needed more butter to hold them together and she was correct, and I wanted to try toasting the nuts. You could use any nut but to echo the exotic feel of the name Montego Bay Bars and the way it makes me invasion white sand beaches and swaying palm trees I choose a combination of macadamia nuts and almonds. For all of my flare for the dramatic I am not exaggerating (or I might be) when I say these bars might just change your life. They might make you want to make them again and again, they might be the perfect answer to the elusive what shall I bake conundrum, or they might just make your taste buds happy and sometimes that is enough in life. 

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Montego Bay Bars

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups cut-up dates

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

3/4 cups water

1 1/2 ounce bittersweet chocolate (60-70% dark)

1/2 cup butter softened (1 stick)

1/2 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1/3 cup chopped nuts (I liked almonds and macadamia to make it fancy but walnut or cashew would also be good)

  • Heat oven to 400 degrees. Grease square pan, 8x8x2 or 9x9x2 inches. 
  • Cook dates, granulated sugar, water, and chocolate in a saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes or until mixture thickens. Cool.
  • Meanwhile cream the butter and brown sugar. Mix in remaining ingredients. 
  • Press half the mixture evenly into bottom of pan. Spread with date mixture; top with remaining crumble mixture, pressing lightly. 
  • Bake for 25 – 30 minutes or until golden brown. Cool; cut into bars.

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10 2016

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