The way my mom recorded her recipes was nearly the opposite of the way that I do here. She kept her recipe cards, magazine and newspaper clippings, and handwritten notes in a big photo album. Her notes were to herself, as I’m sure she never realized how valuable these recipes would become to us one day. She didn’t include what was obvious to her. She didn’t need to remind herself of the order to mix ingredients together, what thickness to roll the dough out, or to what consistency to cook things. She had all of that in her head. But the big stuff is there and as a woman who has now been cooking and baking for more than a few years, I can easily fill in those blanks and create the dishes that she did. Of course, they will never seem quite the same because nobody could do what Mom could do in the kitchen, but they’re darn close.
This recipe is from her old album. They are one of the many cookies she would make at Christmas but I honestly didn’t have a strong memory of them, until I pulled a batch out of the oven and popped one in my mouth. It’s funny how the taste of something can evoke such strong memories. The flavor of this cookie takes me back to our small living room, filled with Christmas lights, Mom is in the kitchen and the entire house smells of Christmas cookies. They are absolutely delightful and I’m so glad that I pulled this recipe out from all of the others and gave it a try.
I started out collecting and recording my recipes just like my mom. I have my own old, worn photo album full of recipes, the best of which I am slowly pulling out and recording here on my blog. Being the mother of sons, most of whom are very happy to consume the food I put in front of them, but not necessarily excited about the process of how it is created, I include a lot more detail than Mom did. Thus, the reasoning behind the step-by-step. For those who don’t cook, reading through a recipe with steps they are unfamiliar with can be intimidating, but viewing the steps takes away the unknown, and hopefully inspires confidence that “hey, I can handle this”.
So, let’s get to work on my momma’s Date Pinwheel Cookies.
The grocery list – 1 (8 ounce) package fresh dates, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, pure vanilla extract, baking soda, salt, butter, light brown sugar, pecans or walnuts, and an egg.
Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a small mixing bowl.
In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the softened butter with the remaining granulated sugar and the brown sugar for a minute or two. Add the egg and vanilla.
Continue to mix with the hand mixer until the egg is well incorporated. You’re done with the hand mixer now so go grab a wooden spoon.
Add the dry ingredients, all at once. Just dump it all right in.
Now, work the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with your wooden spoon.
You’re probably thinking “this is too dry, it will never work!” but fear not, it will seem a little dry.
Once you’ve worked the dough together the best you can with the wooden spoon, throw the spoon out the window, or in the sink, and reach in with your clean hands and work the dough together. It will form together into a ball once you start working it with your warm little hands.
Wrap your ball of dough in plastic wrap and place it in the refrigerator for about an hour.
While the dough is chillaxing in the fridge, let’s move on with the date filling.
Mom’s recipe called for an 8 ounce package of fresh dates. I had a much larger container so I just chopped up enough to measure about 1 cup, or a little more.
Place the chopped dates, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chopped nuts when date mixture has cooked down and is paste like. I went with pecans which my husband thought made them taste like little pecan pies. Walnuts are a good choice too, so use what you have. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside to cool.
Place a piece of wax paper on a cutting board and sprinkle some flour over it. Once the dough has had it’s hour of rest in the fridge, place it on the floured wax paper.
Roll it out with a rolling pin into the shape of a rectangle until it is approximately 12″ x 8″. Don’t worry if the shape is perfect, we’ll fix that next.
Use your hands to square up the edges so you have a nicely shaped, evenly rolled out, rectangle. Hey, this thing is really coming together!
Spoon the cooled date filling right on to the center of the dough.
Spread the filling out, leaving about a 1/2″ border all the way around.
Time to roll it all up. Situate the board so the long edge is facing you. Use the wax paper to help you get it started.
Fold the dough over with the help of the wax paper.
Pull the wax paper away and continue to roll the dough up, jelly roll style.
I know, it doesn’t look perfect, and that’s fine. It’s all going to work out in the end.
Wrap the rolled dough in the wax paper and it goes back to the fridge again for at least an hour or even overnight if you’ve got better things to do than bake cookies. Wait, what’s better than baking cookies?
When you’re good and ready to bake them up, remove the roll from the fridge and place it on a cutting board.
Slice it up. They slices should be about 1/4″ or so. See those end pieces? They may not be pretty but they’re delicious and they’re all mine as soon as these come out of the oven.
Place the slices on parchment paper lined baking sheets. They may not be shaped perfectly so use your hands to round them out so they’ll be nice and pretty after they bake.
And, that’s it. Pop them in the oven at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
Let them cool on the baking sheets for only a minute or two and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.
I hope you try them and enjoy them this holiday season.
Date Pinwheel Cookies
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 cup butter softened
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 egg
- 1 8 ounce package fresh dates, chopped (approximately 1 cup)
- 3/4 cup granulated sugar divided
- 1/2 cup water
- 1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
- Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small mixing bowl and set aside.
- In a large mixing bowl, using a hand mixer, cream the butter with remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar. Mix on medium speed for a minute or two. Add the egg and vanilla and continue mixing until well incorporated.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and stir with a spoon until combined. Using clean hands, work the dough until it holds together in a ball. Wrap the ball of dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
- Meanwhile, place the chopped dates, 1/4 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring mixture to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. When the dates have cooked down and the mixture is paste like, mix in the chopped nuts and remove the pan from the heat. Set aside to cool.
- Roll chilled dough out on a lightly floured piece of wax paper to a 12" x 8" rectangle. Spread the cooled date mixture on the dough to within about 1/2" of the edges. Starting at one of the long ends, begin to carefully roll the dough into a log. Wrap the rolled dough in the wax paper and refrigerate for at least an hour or overnight.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Slice roll into 1/4" slices. Place on lightly greased or parchment paper lined baking sheets and bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool on baking sheets for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- Store in an airtight container.