Of all the homemade cakes and bakes that Mum used to make regularly when I was growing up, this was undoubtedly my favourite. I have no idea why the humble date slice should be in my top five as it’s not as showy or glamorous as many other home-baked treats, but then maybe that’s the attraction. The recipe is just mashed dates which are baked sandwich-style between shortcrust pastry and that’s it. There are fancier versions out there that have a crumble topping but this recipe is the one I grew up with and I’m sticking to it.
Pre-heat oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas mark 6 and grease and line the base of a 20cm (8”) square baking tray or tin.
Break the block of dates up and place them in to a saucepan with the lemon juice and the water. Cook over a low heat for 4 to 5 minutes until the dates are soft. Set to one side to cool.
Make the pastry: Mix flour and salt together in a mixing bowl, then rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Using a knife to cut and stir, mix with cold water to form a stiff dough. Do not over mix, light of hand is best. Allow pastry dough to chill and “relax” for 30 minutes, in a fridge or a cool place, cover the bowl or put the pastry in some cling film.
Assemble the date slice: Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead lightly. Cut it in half and roll out the pastry to fit the base of the baking tin, gently pushing the pastry into the corners. Spread the softened dates evenly over the top of the pastry base, then top with the remaining pastry that has been rolled out to fit. Again, gently pushing and stretching the pastry into the corners.
Sprinkle the caster sugar over the top of the pastry and bake for 25 to 30 minutes until the pastry is golden brown.
Leave in the tin until completely cooled then cut into slices to serve.