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Date bread

Dates popular holiday baking fruit

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The holidays are fast approaching and I've had a few personal requests from readers for date recipes, so the following are a sampling of some of my favorites. I may have included them in a column several years ago, but for those of you who don't already have them in your files, they are well worth repeating.

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Growing up, dates were always part of my late mother's baking ingredients. Unattractive in appearance with their dark, sticky consistency, they weren't all that appealing to me until the day I experienced my mom's homemade date-filled cookies for the first time. The moist, sweet texture of the cookie dough, complemented by the gooey, delicious filling made a great first impression, and consequently, the cookie has become a favorite at our household each Christmas and one I always look forward to preparing.

These are a little time-consuming, but worth every minute. You also have to remember when you shape them not to make them too large to start with, because the generous amount of baking powder in them greatly increases their size while they bake. One batch of the dough makes a large amount of cookies. Also, don't get carried away when you are placing the date filling on the cookies, because you don't want to run out of it before all the cookies are filled.

Another excellent recipe and perhaps my personal favorite is the "Oh! So Good Cookie." Their flavor definitely lives up to the name. Family and friends who eat these cookies for the first time rave about their deliciousness. The mixture of the brown sugar, dates, coconut and the oatmeal is an excellent combination for that melt in your mouth sensation.

Two other great recipes that are also holiday traditions are the date balls with rice krispies rolled in coconut, and moist date bread, which gets part of its baked dark color from the brewed, hot coffee that goes into it. These recipes are both extremely easy to make but require a little down time, because of cooling off phases.

All of these recipes freeze excellently and are so easy to pull out when guests arrive. In fact, the "Oh! So Good Cookies" are so great frozen, you might prefer them that way because it seems that their rich, chewy texture only seems to become more pronounced and vibrant.

Until next week, from my kitchen to your, happy baking!!

Date Filled Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups margarine

3 eggs

3/8 cup milk

3/4 tsp. salt

3 tsp. baking powder

1 1/2 tsp. soda

4 cups flour

1 tsp. vanilla

Cream sugar, shortening, eggs, milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Date Filling

1/2 lb. chopped dates

1/4 cup sugar

3/8 cup water

Cut up dates in sauce pan, add sugar and water, boil, stirring constantly until thick. (Won't take too long.) Cool a little bit until ready to assemble with dough.

Take a small piece of dough and flatten it out to about an inch and a half circle, placing each piece on greased cookie sheet. Place a small amount of the date filling on top and then take another little piece of dough and shape it over the top of the filling, some of which will be peaking through. Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until they are nicely browned and no longer soft to the touch. Place on waxed paper or on rack to cool.

Oh! So Good Cookies

1 cup brown sugar

1 cup white sugar

2 eggs

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup shortening

1 cup dates (cut up)

1 tsp. soda (in 1/4 cup boiling water)

2 cups coconut

2 cups oatmeal

1 3/4 cups flour

3/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla

(nuts are optional if you like, I don't use them)

Cream sugar, eggs, butter and shortening. Add dates, soda in water and rest of dry ingredients and mix well. Drop off spoon onto greased cookie sheet and bake 8 to 10 minutes at 350 degrees. These are not a high baking cookie. Watch closely, since oven temperatures may bake differently.

Date Balls

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup butter

1 1/2 cups dates

Bring this mixture to boil.

Add:

1 beaten egg

3 Tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla, all mixed together.

Be sure you stir quickly when you pour this mixture in so the egg incorporates into the other ingredients. Boil for two minutes, stirring all the while.

Cool and add 2 1/2 cups of Rice Krispies, form into one inch sized balls and roll in coconut. Refrigerate or freeze.

Date Bread

1 cup dates

1 tsp. soda

2 Tbsp. margarine

1 cup hot coffee

3/4 cup brown sugar

1 egg

1 1/2 cups flour

Pour coffee over dates, soda, and margarine; then cool. Add brown sugar, egg and flour. Bake in bread tins at 350 degrees for one hour. (A single batch makes one nice sized large loaf. Doubling the recipe works well, I've done it often.)

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