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Moist date delicacies deliciously good

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When I started writing this column about five years ago in the month of December, one of my very first columns featured a variety of date recipes to coincide with Christmas holiday entertaining.

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Over the weekend, a conversation with friends focused on Christmas baking and two requests for recipes that are at the top of my list every holiday season - one for date bread and the other for my date-filled cookie recipe, which is a little bit different from traditional ones in that you do not roll them into pinwheels and they are not half-moon shaped, instead round and piled high with melt-in-your mouth cookie dough and sweet date filling.

Consequently, I was inspired to pay a visit to my recipe archive and will repeat those recipes this week, along with a couple of other 'date' favorites that were originals from my late mother's tattered files.

The date filled cookies are a little time-consuming, but well worth every minute. They are so moist and delicious it's difficult to stop at one.

Also 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 choice is the "Oh! So Good Cookie," with the brown sugar, dates, coconut and oatmeal, making for a winning combination.

The "Date Balls" with Rice Krispies rolled in coconut, and the "Moist Date Bread" are also real crowd pleasers, with the latter getting 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.

If you love dates, then it's a sure bet you are going to enjoy them all.

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

Date-Filled Cookies

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups shortening (I have used margarine, works well also)

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 peeking 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.

Moist 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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