We all have our favorite Christmas cookies. I am partial to… all of them, but these are special to me because the recipe came from my great-grandma. I’m pretty sure it’s been tweaked down the line, but the basic concept is still the same—a crisp cookie, with a touch of cinnamon, spiraled around a rich and nutty date filling. People never think they’re going to like these cookies (“Ew. Dates?”), but they are always the first ones to disappear. I’ve given them an extra-healthy kick this year by veganizing them. You can make them with eggs or without!
**Special note: MUST BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME! The dough and filling need to chill overnight and the cookies keep their shape best when frozen. So if you’re planning it right, you’ll make the dough two days in advance. Or up to two months ahead, then just slice and bake them when you’re ready! **
You will need:
- 1 C shortening (butter, coconut butter, margarine, whatever)
- 2 C light brown sugar
- 3 eggs (or 1 snack pack of apple sauce and ¼ C water mixed with 4 t ground flax)
- 4 C flour
- ½ t salt
- ½ t baking soda
- 1 t cinnamon
- 1 t vanilla
- 16 oz. dates, pitted and chopped
- ½ C chopped walnuts
- ¾ C brown sugar
- 2 C water
If you’re smart, you’ll get pitted dates and use your food processor to chop them. I did neither, so the prep took me as long as it used to take my great-grandma in the 1800s. Add the filling ingredients to a saucepan over medium-high heat.
When it starts to boil, turn it down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick and bubbly. Remove from heat, transfer to a heatproof container, and let chill.
While the dates are cooking, get to work on the dough. Cream the shortening and sugar together, and then add your eggs (or the apple sauce and water mixture) and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
Add two cups of the flour and the spices. Remember to turn the mixer on low, not high, so you don’t cover your entire kitchen in fine white dust, like I did. Mix that until it’s blended in, then add the rest of the flour and mix again. The second time, even if you’ve remembered to start on low, make sure you don’t accidentally bump the mixer onto high yet again, and cover your kitchen in another layer of dust.
When it’s mixed thoroughly, divide the dough in half onto two sheets of waxed paper, pat them into disks, wrap them, and put them in the fridge to chill overnight. Yes, overnight. I hope you read the note at the front (my worn recipe card was missing that pertinent info…).
The next day, pull out your dough disk, flour your surface pretty generously (these cookies will STICK otherwise), and roll the first disk into a rectangle about 20” by 14” or so.
Put half of the date mixture across the bottom of the rectangle. Spread it up, leaving a bit of extra dough on top. Then roll the dough upwards, starting from the bottom.
At this point, I recommend you cut your Log O’ Dough™ in half. Wrap each half in wax paper, then in aluminum foil, and put them in the freezer. You CAN go ahead and start slicing cookies off of it, but it’s SO soft that your round cookies will quickly turn into squished little logs. If you freeze it, you’ll have much neater pinwheels.
IF, however, you cannot be bothered with exterior appearance, and insist that it is what is on the inside (of your tummy) that matters, you can go ahead now and just kind of try to fluff them up a little bit into rounds. Like I did. Of course, like I did. You should have known.
If you’re as impatient as me, you can get by with cookies that look roughly like mine. OR you can hold out ‘til tomorrow for some picture-perfect beauties. This recipe actually makes enough that I baked a quarter of them immediately, then saved the rest in the freezer for another, neater day.
When you’re ready to bake them, slice them into about ¼” slices, and bake them at 375F for 8-12 minutes. Let them cool on the pan for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a cooling rack. If you forget them on the pan, the dates will cement the cookies to it and you’ll have to chip them off– still delicious, but not really cookies at that point.
DIG IN. Or take them to your cookie swap and watch people convert into believers. Leave them for Santa and get that new car you’ve been eyeing. There’s nothing these can’t do!
Seriously, though. Trust me; you’ll be glad you made these. They’re not even AWFUL for you. I mean, fruit. And stuff. Merry Christmas!