Date Bars

April 23, 2010  •  Category: ,


I saw a cookie recipe on that really got my attention; why? it listed orange rind, orange juice and mastic in the dough. Mastic is used a lot in Lebanese  puddings, breads, ice-cream, and even in lamb shawarma! I just had never seen mastic and fresh orange combined!

I made this cookie and not only  was it the most fragrant butter cookie, ever, but  it sparked my inspiration; I thought, why not make traditionalLebanese date cookies using this dough? orange and dates, a no-brainer, right?

Making huge platters of bar-like cookies is traditional in any Arabic pastry shop in Beirut; for the home cook, it is an easier and speedier option than hand-rolling cookies and stuffing them with the date paste, as my grandmother and countless other grandmothers used to do.

Is mastic important to use here? if you like the stuff, yeah! Some people  don’t. Where do you get it? It is available online through purveyors of Greek or middle-eastern  goods, at the middle-eastern grocers, even  through Amazon.

For the date layer, I used a date paste package that I find at the Palestinian grocer in my neighborhood. It is just dates, pureed and compressed, for  pastry usage. It  saves  time, but if  unavailable, just get pitted dates.

INGREDIENTS: 2 pans 9 inX9 in square

  • 250 g of unsalted butter (2 sticks or 8 ounces)
  • 675 g of AP flour or 3 cups
  • 2 Large eggs
  • 250 g sugar or 1 1/4 cup
  • 1/2 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon of baking powder
  • pinch of baking soda
  • Zest of 4 oranges (I went nuts) or about 3/4 cup (not packed) NOTE: recipe calls for much less.
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mastic (instructions on how to use follow)
  • optional egg wash: 2 yolks, 1 Tablespoon milk

How to use mastic: per; keep the mastic in the freezer; when needed, pull it out and take the amount you need; place between  plastic wrap  and use a rolling  pin to pulverize into powder. Use the powdered mastic. (It won’t dissolve other wise)


  • 13 ounces of date paste or pitted dates
  • 2 ounces (4 Tablespoons)  of butter for the date paste
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of orange blossom water


  1. Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer or processor.  Add the orange zest, the eggs, one egg at a time, crushed mastic, vanilla  and orange juice.
  2. Add the flour mixed with  the salt and baking powder through a sieve into the batter. Mix until all incorporated and the dough will hold and looks smooth and shiny. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest for 30 minutes in the fridge.

  1. Make the date paste: Place the date paste (or all the dates, pitted) in a processor; add the sugar and start processing a few seconds; add the butter and finally add the orange blossom water. The dough will be compact and smooth. The whole process should not take more than one minute.

  1. Grease the pan with a spray or some shortening and flour lightly. Take 1/2 the dough and measure half of that for the bottom layer; keep the other dough half in the freezer for another day; roll the dough  between 2 sheets of wax paper to about an 1/4 inch thickness; to easily determine how to cut it, place the baking pan over the dough, pressing slightly. Take a knife or pizza cutter and score the circumference of the dough. Remove the excess dough and flip the dough onto the pan, pressing it into place, using the wax paper so as not to get your fingers full of grease.
  2. Take the date paste and form into a compact mass; roll it a bit between 2 sheets of wax or plastic paper to a square shape; flip it onto the dough layer and with the plastic wrap, press on it with your fingers to let it spread evenly all over the pan.

  1. Roll the remaining 1/2 pound of dough and repeat the initial operation, flipping it onto the date layer. If pieces fall off, just use your fingers over the plastic wrap to set into place.
  2. Score the dough in squares and prick the entire surface with a fork.
  3. Bake in a 350F oven till golden and crispy, about 20 minutes.

  1. Cool and serve in squares. To serve as a dessert, place a dollop of ashta or clotted cream on the side.

NOTE: If you have never used mastic before, you may want to go easy and use 1/4 teaspoon instead; the flavor is strong.


46 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Terrific! Those bars must be divine!



  2. Mariana says:

    I was really intrigued reading this recipe. The filling almost looks like ‘nutella’ it is so smooth. Very, very different but I love the sound of all that orange zest in the dough. Not that you probably have any left the next day, but I was wondering about the keeping quality of the bars. They look as if they may go soft quickly. Please correct me if I am wrong. I really appreciate your different authentic recipes. Thanks.

  3. peter says:

    Darling Joumana, you’re very liberal in giving me credit for something truly your own, these date squares.

    Thank you for the link-luv, I return the favour soon. 😉

  4. deana says:

    Remarkably, I have mastic in my pantry and this sounds like a wonderful recipe… I never go wrong with your suggestions! I really appreciate that you tell us how to use the mastic, most kind!

  5. lisa says:

    I’ve never used mastic but I imagine I would love the flavor. If it is used in middle eastern pastries, I’m sure I’ve had it. I was just thinking about doing something with the pitted dates I have here. These bars look delicious. Bookmarking this one!

  6. Tara @whatwechow says:

    I absolutely love dates, but I never thought of making my own date cookies! Thanks for posting – can’t wait to try it myself.

  7. SYLVIA says:

    I always enjoy your destinctive recipes, mustic gum smells amazing in the oven it permeates the air into the whole house with its flaverful aroma.
    Dates are full of great nutrient, and rich in fiber as well as with important vitamins that our bodies need to fight against diseases.
    This recipe looks moist and creative, with a great cup of coffee it taste heavenly, and will definitely hit the spot. Bravo !!!

  8. Dinners & Dreams says:

    These bars look amazingly delicious especially to someone who adores dates like me. Well done, Joumana.


  9. Sushma Mallya says:

    Really gorgeous bars, i have never thought of using dates this way but sounds too good and delicious…

  10. radia says:

    très belle recette et à l’air très très bonne.bravo.
    mais je voulais comprendre juste ce que veut dire : mastic.
    merci à toi

  11. SathyaSrihdar says:

    Haiii dear,,,

    How r u ter?..Date bars looks perfect n came out very well dear.. Very nice presentation n in step by step explanations..

  12. Liss says:

    Oh that looks SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO good. I love dates. another to add to that ever growing list (from your blog!!) xx

  13. Angie's Recipes says:

    Totally my type of cookies! Great with any kind of drink for a lazy afternoon tea break!

  14. heni says:

    Dates are very big part of my family’s diet … so I will def be making this – thanks for the link + recipe Joumana!

  15. Joanne says:

    These remind me of fig newtons but WAY WAY WAY better. They actually have real spices in them, which is what I like in a cookie!

  16. My Carolina Kitchen says:

    What lovely date bars. I haven’t thought of dates in years and I’m not sure why i don’t use them more often.

  17. heni says:

    Joumana, I was wondering do you know how to make or rather would you post about Maamoul Madd (with eichta cream) I have been craving that for ages!

  18. Sarah Galvin (All Our Fingers in the Pie) says:

    These look delicious. We make a date square with oatmeal, butter, flour crust. But I like this cookie crust. The dates in a package like yours are very common up here and easy to find. I’ll have to try this.

  19. MaryMoh says:

    I really like this date bars. Would be great with tea. I would love to make this one. I know my parents will like them but they are so far away 🙁

  20. joudie kalla says:

    I love this. It looks incredibly delicious!

  21. tobias cooks! says:

    I never knew you used lots of mastic. very interesting, I thought that was a greek thing.

  22. Arlette says:

    These look great, the recipe is almost similar to my untraditional date square, I use rind in the dough and orange juice with the dates… the addition of the mistekhe will be great too…

  23. Susan says:

    I haven’t had a good date bar in far too long! My husband doesn’t like them but my mother-in-law used to make wonderful date bars that my daughter and I would keep for ourselves. How delicious with the clotted cream.

  24. Lazaro says:

    Wonderful post. Informative and well written. Thank you for all your support and the kind words. Much appreciated. Cheers!

  25. Stella says:

    I love this, Joumana-like a maamoul bar or something like that, no? I want to make something like this soon-maybe date or dry fig.
    By the way, your food is so inspiring. I really appreciate these two most recent posts…

  26. Cherine says:

    Those date bars must be really good!!

  27. nisha says:

    they look soo drooling

  28. gourmandelise says:

    Un délice ces jolies barres!!

  29. Hanaa says:

    I LOVE date cookies. Date bars to me sound like one big date cookie; only easier and faster!! Thanks for sharing the recipe!!

  30. Lori says:

    What is the role that mastic plays in the baked goods? Does it act like a thickener?

    These look so good. I have a bunch of dates to use. I may make this but I wonder if I can omit the mastic.

    BTW I tried the hummus with sardines- hmmmm. They really compliment one another.

  31. Yasmine says:

    Do I have to use a food processor to mix the dough? I don’t have a big one.I have all the ingredients and have been wanting to make them for a while, they look yummy!

    • Joumana says:

      @Yasmine no, you don’t need a food processor.You can use a mixer or a spoon even, as long as everything is well mixed, it does not matter!

  32. Diala Kourie says:


    Are you sure about the 675 grams?
    1 cup = 250 ml = 125 gram flour so it should be 375 gram, no?

    • Joumana says:

      @Diala: If you use a conversion table off Google, 3 cups will equal 704 grams. Since I used 3 cups of flour, anything from 675 to 725 grams would work. There is a lot of butter (8 oz) plus the eggs to consider and if you only use 375 g. you are going to have a very oily dough.

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  34. Marlene says:

    Well I wasn’t planning to bake anything today but this bad habit of going to the grocery store every morning (crazy, right? ) got me here. I found a huge box of dates on sale so I couldn’t resist , I’m sure you can relate. So I came back home with 4 pounds of dates and 6 pounds of salted butter . Sigh!
    I tried a recipe of kaak that I found in a cookbook but they are a little shewy maybe because there’s milk in the dough. I chose that recipe because the dough has cardamom, mahlab and anise but I missed the texture of mamoul. So here I am looking for a more crumbly dough . I see that you posted a more recent version that has fewer ingredients but I will stick to this one

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