Monday, January 5, 2009

Filled date cookies with walnuts, cinnamon, and spiced rum - easy step-by-step recipe with photos

I have updated another family classic from the old town in Minnesota where my ancestors lived and baked. Mom remembers Adeline, the lovely woman who used to play the organ in the community, and whose Date Filled Cookies recipe appeared in the Zion Lutheran cookbook. Unfortunately, the original baker didn't give too many details about preparation, so I winged it and have ended up with a lovely variation that comes out a bit like a jazzed-up snickerdoodle, which I have to hope she would approve of! The addition of spiced rum would probably have raised the eyebrows of many of the Zion ladies . . . even though the alcohol naturally bakes off in the oven. Can we keep this our little secret? :)

1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
3 eggs, beaten
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda

Date filling
1 pound dates
water to cover the dates
splash of dark spiced rum (about 1/2 cup)
ground ginger
1 cup chopped walnuts

large walnut pieces, preferably halves (approximately 3 dozen)
ground cinnamon

  1. Cook the pitted dates over medium heat in a little water in a medium saucepan, stirring frequently. When dates have a fairly smooth consistency, cool, then stir in a splash of spiced rum and a little ground cinnamon and ground ginger (to taste), and chopped walnuts. Set aside filling mixture to continue to cool. (You can make this ahead and refrigerate for a couple days until you're ready to make the cookies.)
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. In large bowl, cream the butter with the sugars.
  4. Add the beaten eggs and mix well.
  5. Add the hot water and vanilla.
  6. In a separate bowl, sift together dry ingredients (flour, salt, and soda).
  7. Add dry ingredients to the wet mixture and stir well.
  8. Prepare a lightly greased cookie sheet.
  9. Remove dough by the teaspoonful from the bowl, and gently roll into small balls in your hand, placing on cookie sheet with plenty of space (about an inch or so) between the balls.
  10. When you have filled the sheet with cookie dough balls, wash your hands, and using a clean, wet finger, make a small depression in each ball. It's okay if the ball gets a little flattened in the process.
  11. Fill each depression with a small amount of date filling.
  12. Take a walnut half (or large piece of walnut) and press into the date filling in the center of each cookie dough ball. Finish by dusting lightly with ground cinnamon.
  13. Bake for approximately 13 minutes, or until cookies are firm and golden.
  14. Cool for a minute on the cookie sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.
This recipe seems to make about 2-3 dozen cookies (depending on their size). The cookies are nicely symmetrical and would be pretty on a holiday cookie & candy plate.
Variations: consider adding raisins, chocolate chips, or shredded coconut to the mixture.