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Monday, December 24, 2012

Date Balls--A Great Last Minute Sweet



Still looking for one more sweet to add to a cookie tray or share with neighbors? Here is a quick no bake cookie we've had as part of our Christmas baking for years. Enjoy!

No Bake Date Balls

1/2 c butter
3/4 to 1 c sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 c chopped dates (about 6 to 8 ounces)
1/2 c flour
1 t vanilla
3 1/2 to 4 c crisp rice cereal (Rice Krispies or similar)
1 c chopped nuts (optional)

1.  Place the butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Melt over medium heat. Remove from heat and stir in the sugar, eggs, dates and flour. Return to burner and continue cooking, stirring often (these stick very easily!) for about 5 minutes, until the mixture just comes to a bubbling boil.

2.  Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and then the cereal and nuts. Start with two cups of cereal and the nuts and then add more cereal, a cup or so at a time, until the mixture is barely sticky to the touch but still holding together.


3.  Allow to cool until comfortable to handle. Shape into small balls and roll in powdered sugar. (The best way to do this is to put half a cup or so of powdered sugar in a quart or gallon size plastic bag and shake three to four of the balls at a time.)

Depending on the size you make these, the recipe will make 4 to 6 dozen balls.

A few hints:

These are relatively fast to make, though starting with chopped dates instead of cutting up whole daates will cut prep time by quite a bit. That said,  I almost always use the whole dates. They are most often cheaper (and more available) and usually are more moist than the pre-chopped dates. It is easiest to use a pair of scissors rather than a knife to cut the dates.

These can prepared through steps 1 and 2 and then the batter can be allowed to cool for an hour or two, if that fits your schedule, before forming into balls. Just don't wait too long and definitely don't refrigerate--they will be VERY hard (impossible) to form into reasonable balls if you do chill them.
Personal experience: One year I made these late in the evening and tucked them into the refrigerator. In the morning, I realized I had a mass that wasn't going to roll into balls. I ended up allowing the mixture to warm just enough to be slightly malleable. Then I pressed it firmly into a well-buttered pan (if I remember, it fit in a 9 X 12 pan) and then cut into squares. Because I was already behind time, I only sprinkled the top with powdered sugar, but the squares could have been rolled in powdered sugar just as with balls. In fact, that might be a quicker (if not so traditional) way to get these finished--and it could provide a different shape for the cookie tray already full of powdered sugar covered balls of other kinds of cookies.


And...if you get to the stage of shaping the balls but can't get the powdered sugar stage done, the cookies can be left unpowdered for some time before taking this final step.

Have you noticed that cookie baking here gets to be a little crazy with timing? An important key to all of the fun of Christmas cookies is to stay flexible!



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