Belinda Jeffery

Coconut, Oat and Pecan Bars with Sticky Date and Orange Filling

Although these bars look quite plain, they have a really lovely flavour. The date filling is fragrant with orange zest and surprisingly luscious, and is balanced out beautifully by the toasty, nutty crunch and flavour of the oats and pecans.

  • Serves 8-12 depending on size.

  • Sticky date and orange filling

  • 250g pitted dates
  • Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 1/2 cups (375ml) freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups (375g) plain flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 cups (330g) firmly packed brown sugar
  • 375g cold unsalted butter, in small chunks
  • 1 cup (70g) shredded coconut
  • 120g pecans, finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (135g) rolled oats
  • Icing sugar, for dusting

To make the sticky date filling, put the dates, orange zest and juice into a small saucepan over medium to low heat. Bring the mixture just to the boil, then adjust the heat so it bubbles gently but steadily. Stir it occasionally, and use the back of the spoon to squash the dates until they form a thick, chunky puree. (Just be mindful to keep a sharp eye on it towards the end of the cooking time so the bottom doesn’t scorch.) It’s ready when a wooden spoon run through the middle of the pan leaves a clean trail in the puree and the sides stay apart. Remove the pan from the heat, add the vanilla and stir it briskly to break up any big chunks of dates, then leave it to cool. (You can make this mixture a day ahead and keep it in the fridge.)

Preheat your oven to 180C and lightly butter a 32cm x 24cm x 5cm baking tin and line the base and sides with baking paper (I just use one sheet and pleat it at the corners).

Whiz the flour, salt, cinnamon and sugar in a food processor until they’re well combined. Add the butter and pulse in quick bursts until the mixture is crumbly. (If your food processor is small, do this in batches.) Tip the mixture into a large bowl and stir in the coconut, pecans and oats.

Press half the oat mixture evenly into the base of the prepared tin. Spread the date filling over the top, leaving a 1cm border all round the edge. Spread the rest of the oat mixture over this, but only press down on it lightly to level it.

Bake the slice for 50-55 minutes, or until it’s golden brown, then transfer it to a wire rack, and leave it to cool completely in the tin.

Cut the slice into fingers or squares and store them in an airtight container – I keep them in the fridge in the warmer months, although in cool weather they are fine left out. They keep well for at least five days, but they will soften a little. Dust them lightly with icing sugar just before serving.

Dressing up

These are seriously good with a cup of tea or coffee, but you can dress them up into party mode quite easily. To do this, cut the slice into diamonds rather than fingers, put one on each plate and dust it with icing sugar. Next, glaze some toasted pecan halves with boiling apricot jam, and sit these on top. Serve it with vanilla ice-cream and lashings of warm caramel sauce.