Chocolate, Date, and Orange Bar Cookies

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  12 bars
Prep Time:  30 minutes Cook Time:  30 minutes

Chocolate, Date, and Orange Bar Cookies

These Baghdadi-Indian inspired bar cookies are rich with the flavors of oranges, dates, and cardamom, which highlight the luscious dark chocolate chunks. Tinged with toasted coconut on top, these bar cookies are oh-so-good with a cup of strong coffee or chai tea. The recipe calls for clarified butter, which is butter that has been heated to separate and remove its milk solids, leaving behind the only the fat; it is often used in Southern and Central Asian cooking. In India, it is known as ghee.

Ingredients

1 cup (2 sticks/16 tablespoons/227 grams) unsalted butter

4 cups (520 grams) unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 cup (206 grams) dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons (4 grams) toasted ground cardamom (see Kitchen Tips)

2 teaspoons (9 grams) baking powder

1 teaspoon (5 grams) baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

2 tablespoons vanilla bean paste

⅓ cup date syrup (silan)

1 cup (170 grams) chopped pitted dates

¾ cup (128 grams) dark chocolate chunks

Zest of 1 large orange (about 1 heaping tablespoon/5 to 6 grams)

¾ teaspoon orange blossom water

1½ cups sweetened shredded coconut

Instructions

  1. Clarify the butter: In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, melt the butter until the fat separates to the bottom and the white or pale yellow bits rise to the top. (Do not let it get brown).  Remove from the heat and skim off the top layer. What is left is clarified butter. Set aside. (Clarified butter will keep very well, refrigerated and covered, for up to a week, but it needs to be reheated to melt again.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with nonstick vegetable oil spray and line it with parchment paper. Set aside.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment,  combine the flour, sugar, cardamom, baking powder, baking soda, and salt and stir well to combine. Add the melted butter and mix just to combine. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Add the vanilla bean paste and date syrup and mix until combined.
  4. Add the dates, chocolate, orange zest, and orange blossom water and mix to combine.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared  pan. Scatter the coconut on top in an even layer, pressing it down so it sticks to the batter. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until a toothpick or cake tester comes out clean (except for melted chocolate bits).
  6. Allow to cool in the pan. Cut into 12 pieces and serve, or place in an airtight container and cover.

Kitchen Tips

  1. These cookies will keep for about 2 days in a covered container.
  2. You can also purchase ghee at health food and specialty stores, but it must be melted before use.
  3. To toast spices, pour the ground or whole seeds into a frying pan or cast-iron skillet and set over medium heat. Toast for 10 to 20 seconds, or up to 1 minute, until fragrant. Watch carefully so the spices do not burn.

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