You can hardly find any trace of Food for the Gods in the Philippines from January to November. But for some unknown reason, the classic and chewy treat always finds its way to the list of food gifts for Christmas and New Year. And with a name like that, the expectation is quite high for this holiday treat.
I’m not sure why Food for the Gods is mostly only associated with Christmas; I think it should be as mainstream as brownies or these Butterscotch Blondies. In any case, these bars are often given as gifts for Christmas.
I tried researching online about the origin of its name and nothing credible (aka provable) came up. Several hits suggested that ‘Food for the Gods’ came from the Spanish bread called Pan de Datil that was popularized in the Philippines in the 1900s. Another theory was that the name was inspired by the expensiveness of the ingredients. Dates and walnuts aren’t exactly a dime a dozen in the Philippines, after all.
“Perhaps it’s due to its tempting texture and ambrosia like taste?,” I pondered while I gulped down a bar with a glass of milk. Maybe, maybe not.
Similar to butterscotch bars, this sweet and nutty Food for the Gods recipe calls for brown sugar and some nuts. The baking method is the same, too. However, what sets it apart and makes it extra special is its trump card, dates. Pitted dates, that is. Walnuts are also typically added but you’re always welcome to add your favorite nuts. Macadamias and pecans would make a great addition, I think.
I had no idea that cutting dates up would be a sticky business. The pieces stuck to each other and I worried that they would clump together when added to the batter. Then I remembered that coating nuts (or dates, in this case) with flour can prevent this. I put the chopped dates and walnuts in a bowl and sprinkled a tablespoonful of flour and mixed them up.
I reserved about a quarter cup of the date and walnut-mixture and sprinkled them on top of the batter just before baking. I think doing this makes these Food for the Gods bars look more visually appealing.
For an extra holiday touch, I added a pinch of cinnamon to the recipe. The scent of cinnamon always gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling for some reason. Traditional recipes don’t have cinnamon at all, but I think it complements the rest of the ingredients quite well.
So, are you ready to bake this treat for the holidays?Print
Food for the Gods is a decadent, chewy, and buttery holiday treat filled with dates and walnuts.
- 170 grams (1 1/2 sticks) butter
- 275 grams (1 1/4 cups) brown sugar
- 2 eggs, large
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon (optional)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 240 grams (2 cups) flour
- 125 grams (1 cup) cashew nuts, chopped
- 170 grams (1 cup) pitted dates, chopped
- Line an 8×8 baking pan with baking paper. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F.
- Sift baking powder and flour together.
- In a small saucepan over low heat, melt the butter until it bubbles and starts to clear up. Continue to cook while stirring with a spatula until it starts to smell toasty and nutty. Immediately remove from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.
- Add the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt to the butter. Whisk until smooth.
- Add the eggs one at a time, whisking to mix after each addition.
- Fold in the flour, dates, and walnuts until no flour streaks are visible. Do not over mix the batter.
- Pour onto the prepared baking pan and bake for 25-30 mins.
- Remove from the oven and cool before cutting into squares.
- You can reserve a handful of dates and walnuts to sprinkle on top of the batter before baking.
- Add pecans, pistachio, or your favorite nuts for more flavor.
- Chopped dates are sticky. Mix it in with the chopped nuts or toss it in flour to avoid stickiness.
- I had 16 squares in total. However, you can cut them even smaller as each square is quite filling.
- Category: Filipino, Pastries
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Filipino
Keywords: Food for the Gods