The grey cottage is going to be 'Baking Central' this week! I'm making the last minute treats that will grace a platter of sweets on the Christmas dessert table, sit beside the cups of coffee and tea that guests will be served, and make their way onto Christmas plates that we'll drop off to our neighbors on Christmas Eve.
I have favorite recipes that I make every year ... doesn't everyone? Today, I made gingerbread boy cookie dough for cookies that I'll put together tomorrow. The dough is supposed to chill overnight, so it's very convenient to put together and then put aside. I made coconut date balls this afternoon. This is a very simple recipe that makes a soft, chewy date toffee-like two-bite treat. Phew! That was a mouthful, literally AND figuratively! The sweetened coconut that coats this little sugar bomb is perfect for helping it to hold its shape, saving fingers from being gooey after nibbling, and has a nice soft crunch factor.
A word about ingredients - I use whole pitted dates that I chop myself. They are cheaper and more moist than the dehydrated and bagged dates that certain major manufacturers sell. I also like using whole shelled pecans because I can chop them to a uniform size. I use half butter and half margarine. I know some folk have a huge aversion to margarine, but I feel that it makes for a less oily product in this case. Okay ... that's all I have to say ... except that I was really upset to find out that my gluten-free friend can't have these treats because there is malt in the Rice Krispies (damndamndamn!). By the time I got home from market and realized my error, it was too late to go back into town and scout out a gluten-free puffed rice cereal, so I am making a note for next year ... sorry Harold! You, dear reader, can avoid my blunder, though, by taking note when you shop for ingredients, should you require a gluten-free date treat.
Okay, so here we are ... I chopped a pound of dates and brought them to a nice bubble in a heavy pan with a stick of butter, a stick of margarine, and a cup of sugar.
I let the mixture cool a bit and then beat an egg and stirred it in quickly. It went back on the heat for a few minutes to cook the egg and give a nicer glaze to the sweet buttery dates.
Once the egg was cooked into the dates, I folded in the nuts and rice cereal. I stirred it really well to incorporate all the chewy ingredients. Then, I used two spoons to scoop small balls of gooey-ness into the sweetened coconut. The balls get rolled around and placed on pretty serving plates. I flluffed the coconut after rolling every three or four date balls to keep a fluffy coating going on. This recipe made 36 date balls that are all about the size of a ping-pong ball. Two perfect bites - just right with a cup of tea or a snack on the run.
I'm so excited! Day #1 sweet complete!
Coconut Date Balls
In a heavy saucepan, cook over medium heat until dates and sugar are smooth:
1 c. margarine/butter, melted
1 c. sugar
1 lb. chopped dates
Cool the mixture slightly and briskly stir in:
1 large egg, beaten
Return the mixture to the stove and cook over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and fold in:
2 c. Rice Krispies cereal
1/2 c. chopped pecans ( or walnuts)
Cool for a few minutes and then use spoons to make small ball-shaped bonbons. Roll them in a bowl of fluffed up sweetened coconut and store in tightly covered tins or on serving platters that are closely covered with plastic wrap. Date balls dry out if left uncovered ... store carefully.
Christmas Sweets - Day #2 - Gingerbread Boys !