Saturday, November 3, 2012

Matrimonial Cake

My dear friend Svend Hansen, who recently turned 89, gave me this recipe a few weeks ago. Although these squares are officially called Matrimonial  “Cake,” they’re an old-time bar cookie. Over the past few years, theyve had a resurgence in popularity through their appearance in trendy coffee shops.

Edna, Svends late wife, used to make these bars: Svend now makes them, himself. Until her passing exactly 10 years ago to the day, Edna and Svend were fortunate enough to enjoy 56 years of marriage. Svend says the secret to a happy marriage is mutual love and respect: I second the motion!

Otherwise known as Date Squares, you’ll love the way these cookies hold together, rather than oozing and crumbling the way Date Squares normally do. If you’re a new cook or simply need a reminder of how good these are, Date Squares or Matrimonial Cake have a crumbly oat layer on the bottom, a date layer at the center, and another layer of oats on top. We can certainly vouch for the taste of Svend’s squares: Ron and I gobbled them up, leaving only a few crumbs on the plate that we were too embarrassed to photograph.

Matrimonial Cake:

To Prepare the Crumb Layer:

1-¼ c. all-purpose flour
1-½ c. large flake rolled oats
1 c. well-packed brown sugar
½ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt (see Note)
1 c. butter or margarine

Preheat oven to 350 deg. F. Lightly grease a 9x9-in. baking pan. Measure flour, oats, sugar, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl, combining well. Cut butter into oat mixture until crumbly. Firmly press slightly more than half of crumbs into bottom of pan. Set aside.

To Prepare the Date Filling:

1 lb. dates, cut up (see Further Note)
1 tbsp. brown sugar 
2 tbsp. lemon juice
⅔ c. water

Combine dates, sugar, and water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to simmer until mixture softens. Mixture should hold together well but should not be dry. Cool slightly before spreading over crumb base. 

Sprinkle remaining crumbs evenly over date mixture, pressing lightly with your palm. Bake until golden brown, about 30 min. Cool completely before cutting into squares and gently lifting from pan.

Note: Old-time recipes usually contain more salt than wise in our diets. In the recipe above, Ive reduced the amount of salt the original recipe recommends. I do this routinely, Dollinks. To further keep the salt levels down, I try to use unsalted butter or margarine as often as possible. The only place this doesn’t work is in yeast bread recipes. Always use the amount of salt that yeast bread recipes recommend. 

Edna’s handwritten notes on this recipe indicate that she, too, altered the original, which calls for just ½ lb. dates and granulated sugar. Edna’s version is excellent, but the recipe I’ve given above is a hybrid of what I make and she made.

Tomorrow: It’s another Dinner Party! This time at lunch, and this time for the FFFF! Don’t know what that is? You’ll just have to wait and find out! Hint: Tomorrow’s blog is exclusively aimed at women. Let the guys drink beer, scratch their bellies, and watch football with their buddies as we par-tay! We wouldn’t want men to know all our secrets, would we?

1 comment:

  1. When I wrote this blog earlier today, I mused about the necessity of adding baking powder or baking soda to the oats. Edna's version called for baking powder; most recipes ask for soda, so I changed the recipe to the latter.

    Why add anything at all, I wondered? My sister Paulette provided the answer: "I checked several recipes online and they all call for baking SODA, as does my own recipe from a cookie cookbook. If you leave out the baking soda (or powder), the oatmeal base and topping will be hard, not light and crumbly. Oats don't rise, but the flour mixture will, just as oatmeal cookies do."

    Paulette goes on to make a personal observation: "I've always been disappointed with Date Squares from coffee shops and bakeries. I don't know what kind of fat they use, but they somehow cheapen the ingredients and the oatmeal crust tastes stale."

    My response? I don't know what these stores and coffee shops use either, but I agree 100% that the Date Squares in these places taste awful. Anyone who makes homemade Date Squares will immediately know what they've been missing.

    The food industry often uses cheap palm oil in baked goods, disguising its lesser quality with plenty of sugar. Don't be fooled. Junk food comes in many forms. Baked good made with cheap fats such as palm oil or lard don't taste good - and do your body no favors. Food not only tastes better when you make it yourself, but it's generally better for you.

    Many of the recipes I print belong in the "treat" category. No one should eat sweets or foods high in fat on a daily basis. Thanks for dropping me a line, Paulette!


Want to find a long-lost favorite recipe? Want to submit one of yours, or simply leave a comment? Always happy to hear from you!