Fruity inspirations: ice cream cone date bars

And you thought you were done with ice cream cones for the season. But we found a way not just to bring them back, but to do so deliciously and with just the right festive spirit for the holidays.

We combine crushed sugar ice cream cones, toasted pecans and jammy cooked dates in a delicious bar topped with melted caramel candies and — of course — more pecans and crushed ice cream cones. The dates combine with the caramel to form a luscious sticky, rich filling reminiscent of sticky toffee pudding.

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ICE CREAM CONE CARAMEL DATE BARS

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Makes 2 dozen cookies

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 egg

1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup crushed toasted pecans, divided

1 cup crushed sugar ice cream cones (about 6 cones), divided

8-ounce package pitted dates, finely chopped

3/4 cup half-and-half

8 ounces soft caramel candies

Heat the oven to 350 F. Coat a 9-by-13-inch baking pan with baking spray.

In a medium bowl, use an electric mixer to beat together the butter, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and baking powder. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour, then 3/4 cup of the pecans and 3/4 cup of the crushed sugar cones. Press the mixture in an even layer into the prepared pan and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until golden brown.

While the crust bakes, make the filling. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the dates and half-and-half. Cook until the dates soften and begin to break down, about 10 minutes. Add the caramels and cook until melted, stirring constantly, about another 10 minutes.

When the crust is baked and the filling is made, pour the filling over the crust and spread evenly. Sprinkle the reserved toasted pecans and crushed sugar cone over the top, then let set up until firm. Cut into 24 bars.

Nutrition information per cookie: 230 calories; 80 calories from fat (35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (3 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 20 mg cholesterol; 37 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 27 g sugar; 3 g protein; 95 mg sodium.