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Sticky Date & Amaretti Crumble Bars


Sticky Date & Amaretti Crumble Bars


A trip to Toronto when I was seven years’ old is anchored for me by one thing: not the CN tower, or Niagara Falls or my cousin’s wedding, but a visit to the farmers’ market, and in particular, a potentially life-changing stall.  A tall, russet-cheeked man was in command, his floured apron stretched taught over his protuberant belly. 


And on his table lay not the garish, sprinkle- speckled swirls that would have drawn a normal child. Instead, tray after tray of rubbly slabs of oat and date crumble bars were arrayed. 

The date layer of the bars was jaw-clenchingly sticky, and thick – not like the mean, shop-bought equivalent. The oaty outer layers were both crunchy and then soft, golden and not overly sweet, allowing the natural date sweetness to shine through. 


. For the last seventeen years I’ve been raiding bakeries and markets, seeking to relive the experience, but the date and oat crumble bars always disappoint – too saccharine, too solid, too floury. In between raids, I’ve been working on my own: these are the closest I have come to Toronto’s best kept secret. I added the crushed amaretti to give them a little twist. Feel free to leave the sugar out of the crumble if your palate is adjusted to the less-sweet. 

It’s incredibly hard to resist them when they emerge from the oven golden and crisp, but I think they taste even better when they have cooled and the flavours are more distinct (or maybe try them both ways, just to be sure…).

NB. They can be made gluten-free by substituting gluten-free flour for spelt. 



Date filling

400g medjool dates, pitted & roughly chopped (about 20)

3 tbsp fresh orange juice

120ml water

2 tsp vanilla extract

½ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp finely grated orange zest



250g oats

120g butter

100g wholemeal spelt flour

50g dry amaretti biscuits

40g light brown muscovado sugar

¼ tsp mixed spice

½ tsp vanilla extract

¼ tsp salt

A square 20cm baking tin (or tin of equivalent area), lined with baking parchment, with sides and base fully covered.


1)    Preheat oven to 180°C

2)    Place all ingredients for the date filling in a pot and place on a medium heat. Stir as the mixture begins to simmer. After about 5 minutes, when the dates have broken down into more of a paste and all the water has evaporated, remove from the heat and set aside.

3)    Pour all the crumble ingredients into a blender and pulse until the mixture still has some texture  and is slightly coarser than sand.

4)    Pour 2/3 of the crumble mixture into the base of the tin, and, with your fingers or the back of a spoon, press the mixture down evenly across the base of the tin until firm and compact. Pour the date filling over and spread evenly across the base. Then pour over the remaining crumble mixture and press down until even and as compact as possible.

5)    Place in oven to bake for 15-20 minutes until golden and firm to the touch.

6)    Slice and allow to cool before devouring. Keeps well in an air tight container in fridge for up to 5 days, or in freezer for 2 months (also tastes delicious when frozen).








Amaretti (gluten-free)  Amaretti

These are not those tooth-breaking, individually wrapped little rocks you might impulse buy at coffee shops.  They’re soft, aromatic and chewy (and great for the dentally challenged).

AmarettiAmaretti are also perfect for coeliacs, and can make a wonderful dessert paired with ice cream and a tangy berry sauce (see recipe here).

AmarettiThis recipe should be paired with my one for summer berry lemon curd tarts (see recipe here) which awkwardly leaves you with spare egg whites.  Don’t waste them, make these instead –you won’t regret it…




Ingredients (makes 35 small cookies)

360g ground almonds

220g caster sugar

finely grated zest of 2 lemons

½ tsp salt

115g egg white (3 large eggs, approx.)

4 tsp honey

¼ tsp almond extract

100g icing sugar, sieved, for rolling


1 large baking tray lined with baking parchment



1.)    Preheat oven to 170˚C.  In a large bowl mix together the ground almonds, sugar, lemon zest and salt, and set aside.

2.)    Pour the egg whites into the bone dry and non-greasy bowl of an electric mixer.  Whisk on high speed until soft and frothy peaks form.  Pour the honey into the eggs and continue to whisk on a high speed until the peaks are glossy (see above photo). Sprinkle the almond extract into the eggs and whisk together very briefly at a low speed just to combine.

3.)    Very gently fold the whisked egg white mixture into the dry ingredients.  They will combine to form a soft and sticky paste.

4.)    Using your palms, roll 20g at a time of the mixture into spheres (roughly 2.5cm in diameter), and then roll each generously in a bowl of icing sugar.  Repeat and arrange on the tray, leaving at least 3cm between.  Use the tines of a fork to slightly flatten the amaretti spheres. Place the tray in the oven to bake for 8-12 minutes until they are beginning to turn golden on the outside but are still soft inside.  They will continue to cook as they cool.