Abject apology bars (with dates, chocolate chips, pecan, and coconut)

One pristine Abject apology bar is propped up in the foreground, with others, unfocused behind, and canisters of sugar and flour still further behind.

Last week I did a Very Bad Thing. You see, for my day job I work as a program coordinator and educational technologist for a university English dept. It sounds almost fancy when I phrase it that way, but if we’re being really honest about what it means… well, I write a lot of email. A lot of email. That’s not all I do, of course, but it’s a disturbingly large proportion. And as the ed-tech guy, I’m supposed to be fairly proficient with the systems I support, including listservs. So when a colleague accidentally replied-all to an impersonal announcement email, and then again replied-all to apologize for the error, you’d expect that my offhanded, lightly joking reassurance in reply would be carefully checked to respond to my colleague alone.

Which just proves that you’re not sufficiently familiar with the adages of a [likely] fictional fellow by the name of Murphy.

A collage: a bowlful of mix-ins ready for the batter, being held over the mixing bowl, followed by the same bowlful in mid-pour. The tiniest, most satisfying comic strip about baking.

So yes, my little quip went back to everybody. Since most people in the department know that I make good food, I decided that I’d take the opportunity to play around with a favorite recipe of mine and make some tasty treats as a kind of edible mea culpa. The favorite recipe is from Lisa Fain, author of Homesick Texan (the blog) as well as a pair of cookbooks by the same name. The Date Bars in her first cookbook are a thing of wonder, simple and sublimely balanced, a confection of chopped dates and pecans in a toothsome crumb.

A baked pan of bars sits in front of a pile of ingredients in bags and canisters. There's almost a parent and child relationship here. There are lots of parents; it's a very modern family.

“So why not just make the date bars,” you ask? People: reply-all is a cardinal sin. I could no more make a simple, classic apology treat than I could say just one Our Father as penance for spitting on my sister from on top of the monkey bars — proportional response. So instead I took some inspiration from another classic Texas treat, the cowboy cookie. In went the chocolate chips! In, the shredded coconut! After a few batches of experimenting to dial in the sugar so they’re still cookies, not candy, I had the perfect over-the-top bar cookie that just screams “I’m a dolt, but I’m hoping you’ll forget all about that after you eat this.” May your emails be forever free of inappropriate replying-all! But if you err, don’t worry: abject apology bars are here for you.

A dozen abject apology bars are laid out in overlaid columns of four on a checkerboard wooden surface. It's like twelve little apologies stacked up and ready to go.

Abject apology bars (with dates, chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut)

  • Servings: 16 largish bar cookies
  • Print

Sometimes you really screw up, and only a ridiculously overloaded baked good can fix it — that’s where these squares of sweet goodness come in. Sticky-sweet dates, rich pecans, crowd-favorite chocolate chips, and fragrant coconut come together to sweeten a co-worker’s soured disposition. Try not to mess things up, but if you do? Abject apology bars to the rescue.

Adapted from Lisa Fain’s “Date Bars” in her Homesick Texan Cookbook.

Ingredients

2 large eggs
3/4 c sugar
1 tsp vanilla

1 Tbsp water
2 Tbsp butter

8 oz. chopped dates (feel free to use an 8 oz. bag of pre-chopped dates — very convenient)
3/4 c chopped pecans
1/2 c unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 c chocolate chips
1 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt

Extra butter for greasing the pan

Directions

Line a 9×9 inch square baking pan with aluminum foil, and grease the foil with the extra butter. (Yes, really: this is a very sticky batter. If you happen to have a square pan with a removable bottom you might be able to get away with the foil, but that’s a big maybe.) Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Crack the eggs into a large bowl and whisk with the sugar and vanilla until the mixture is thoroughly combined.

In a small microwaveable bowl, microwave the water and butter until the butter is melted, about 30 seconds. (Or use a small pot on the stovetop.) Combine the butter mixture and all the remaining ingredients with the egg mixture and stir until all ingredients are evenly distributed.

Scrape into the prepared pan, smooth, and bake for 20-25 minutes, until the top of the bars are uniformly golden brown.

Allow to cool completely in the pan, then lift out the foil and peel it off, and cut the bars into 16 pieces. (Or 32 if you’d like to make some bitesize nibbles.)

Options

The Homesick Texan finishes her bars with a dusting of powdered sugar. I personally don’t, because I’m lazy, but since these bars are really an exercise in gilding the lily: gild away!

I consider the dates to be foundational to these bars, given their chewy stickiness. But the pecans, chocolate chips, and coconut are all up for grabs. Want to swap something? Change an amount? Godspeed. As long as you have around the same amount of stuff it’ll probably work out. (When you’re thinking about it, recognize that there’s an extra-large amount of coconut, compared to the other mix-ins, because it’s so fluffy.)

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