My mother is a very healthy eater; she does not have the sweet-tooth that plagues me. She is a very active woman; her idea of a treat is popcorn and wine after a marathon of tennis tournaments (which she wins). Meanwhile, I don’t feel a day is complete without dessert, whether I spent that day hiking or under blankets (and I confess I spend more of my days under blankets than hiking). Due to my mother’s focus on nutrition rather than treats, making dessert with her was a very special occasion when I was a child.
I do remember making lots of drop cookies with my mom; oatmeal raisin, chocolate chip, and oatmeal scotchies, but the most special cookie we made together were her date-filled cookies. These cookies involve chilling, rolling and cutting out dough, cooking a filling and assembling the final sweet morsel before baking. She made these almost every year for Christmas; I remember the whole house smelling like vanilla and dates. We gave most of them away as gifts, but I remember sneaking a few before the holidays were through.
The dough in this recipe is a rich sugar cookie dough (I use this same dough for my raspberry thumbprint cookies). The date filling comes together quite quickly; I recommend using medjool dates chopped quite finely rather than prechopped, sugared dates- this helps avoid and sickly sweet cookie filling.
The shape my mother made with these cookies was always the turnover style, but feel free to make rounds, or even lattice-topped cookies if you wish to make something more visually intricate. Perhaps these cookies will become part of your holiday tradition, or perhaps, like me, you just crave them on a regular Friday night. Dust each cookies with a kiss of powdered sugar and serve alongside some tea (best eaten snuggled under a blanket)!
2 sticks softened butter
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups flour
1 cup chopped dates
6 tablespoons sugar
5 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in the egg, salt, baking powder and vanilla extract and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the flour and stir until blended. Divide the dough into thirds, shape into disc and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for one hour.
Meanwhile, make the filling. Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring continually, until the mixture thickens. Add the chopped nuts. Cool this mixture before using.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line baking trays with parchment paper.
Roll the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and cut out 2 1/2 inch rounds. For a turnover shape, use slightly less than a tablespoon of filling and crimp the edges. For 2 rounds, use slightly less than 2 tablespoons of filling and crimp the edges.
Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until the cookies are slightly golden brown. Let stand on the pan briefly, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar if desired.