Combine first 5 ingredients in a medium bowl. Cut in shortening with pastry blender until mixture resembles coarse meal. Reserve 1 cup crumb mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into an ungreased 13- x 9- x 2-inch pan.Chop dates. Combine dates, water, and sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add vanilla or maple extract. Spread date mixture over crumb mixture. Sprinkle with reserved 1 cup crumb mixture.
Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares. Yield: 4 dozen.