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Gooey espresso and dark-chocolate date bars

MAKES 16 // HANDS-ON 20 min // HANDS-OFF 30–45 min

375g soft butter, plus to grease
250g pitted dried dates
125 ml warm espresso
1 tbsp maple syrup
½ tsp vanilla essence
230g brown sugar
190g flour
175g oats
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
80g dark chocolate, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 180°C and grease a 20 cm baking tin.
2. In a food processor, blend the dates, espresso, syrup and vanilla essence into a smooth paste. Leave to cool.
3. Cream butter and sugar. Add to the food processor, along with flour, oats, baking powder and cinnamon. Blend until crumbly.
4. Press half the mixture into the tin. Spread the date paste over it and sprinkle with the chocolate bits. Cover with the remaining crumble, but do not press down like the first layer.
5. Bake for 30–45 minutes, until golden on top.

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