Where does the pastry get its name? Sheer indulgence, I suppose. Butterscotch squares are lovely by themselves but add dates and they become extra chewy. Add nuts and the crunchiness adds just the perfect contrast to the chewy dates.
Although butterscotch squares are ubiquitous especially in sugar-growing regions in the Philippines, dates and walnuts are pricey imported items. Hence, food for the gods is regarded as a special occasion treat.
You’ll find so many recipes for food for the gods on the web, and many substitute raisins and cashew nuts for the Medjool dates and walnuts. While substituting much cheaper raisins and cashew nuts will definitely bring down the cost, the cookie squares will not acquire the desirable texture of real food for the gods.
Medjool dates are palm dates. You will find them in Middle Eastern and South Asian groceries and food shops. They are available dried — pitted or unpitted.
If only unpitted dates are available, simply slit each one to press out the seed at the center. There is nothing else to remove and discard. Chop or cut as you would pitted dates.
Tossing the dates and walnuts with a little flour before they are added to the batter helps prevent them from sinking during baking.
The rest of the steps is the same as making butterscotch brownies.
Mix melted butter and brown sugar. It has to be brown sugar, not white, fot two reasons. Brown sugar gives this sweet a distinctive chewiness. It also gives it a lovely color.
Then, you add eggs. Whole large eggs.
Flour, baking powder and salt are whisked together before they are added to the butter-sugar-eggs mixture.
The floured dates and walnuts are folded in to finish the batter.
And the batter is transferred to a baking pan lined with parchment paper.
We like to top the batter with reserved nuts and dates before baking. Purely for optics, so that’s optional.
Food for the gods
- 1 cup chopped pitted dates
- ¾ cup all-purpose flour - plus two teaspoons
- 1 cup toasted chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 ½ cups dark brown sugar - loosely packed
- 2 large eggs
- 1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Preheat the oven to 350F.
- Put the butter in a microwavable bowl and heat for 30 seconds or just until melted, and leave to cool a bit.
- Line the bottom and sides of an 8" x 8" baking pan with parchment paper.
- Place the chopped dates in a bowl, add a teaspoon of flour and toss to coat each piece.
- Place the walnuts in another bowl, add a teaspoon of flour and toss to coat every piece.
- Scrape the melted butter into a mixing bowl, add the brown sugar and mix until of uniform consistency.
- Add the eggs and mix until no egg-y streak is visible.
- In another mixing bowl, whisk the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
- Add to the sugar mixture and mix just until fully blended.
- Fold in the dates and walnuts.
- Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing it out to spread evenly.
- Bake at 350F for 25 minutes, then turn off the oven but leave the pan inside for another five minutes.
- Cool the uncut food for the gods in the pan until just warm.
- Invert on a rack, peel off the parchment paper then invert on a cutting board.
- Cut the food for the gods into 16 two-inch squares.