Date Cookies – Butter cookies with gooey dates and toasted pecans. Time-Tested Family Recipe.
My friend Kelly Jaggers is back with another delicious family recipe! These cookies would make a perfect treat for Rosh Hashanah. ~ Tori
My Aunt Ruby was never a big fan of chocolate. Unless it was a German Chocolate Cake, or a dark chocolate coating for coconut candy, she didn’t make much that was chocolate flavored. She preferred brown sugar, nuts, vanilla, and sweet fruits. Those preferences are reflected in the recipes she tucked into her recipe boxes, and in the treats she baked for me and my family. She always had some kind of nutty treat on the table to enjoy when we came to visit.
When I was very young my tastes ran to chocolate almost exclusively. My grandmother indulged me happily, but Ruby really didn’t. She made what she liked, and I either ate it or I didn’t. It was not until I was older that I tried some of her homemade goodies. I realized what I had been missing, so I made up for lost time by eating as much as I could. I remember clearly, for example, the first time I tried a bite of her famous pecan pie. It was Thanksgiving and I was in the kitchen getting a slice of pumpkin chiffon pie. I decided to take a small slice of her pecan pie, as an experiment. I quickly went back for a much larger slice.
One of my favorite recipes from my Aunt Ruby is her date cookies. These soft butter cookies have dates made gooey from the oven and toasty pecans. They are easy to make, and have that sort of rough beauty of homemade cookies. If Ruby had cookies in her cookie jar they were almost always these. They combined all of her favorite things, and are great to serve with a cup of ice cold milk as a snack, or with steaming cups of coffee when company comes to call.
I had put off making these cookies until a year ago. My mother and I went to Houston to visit my cousin and she had baked a batch to welcome us. Because I am greedy, I ate a lot more of these than I should have. When I came home I was inspired to make some of my own, so I dug the recipe out of my file. Dates are not something I often bake with, so the first time I whipped up a batch of these cookies my husband – who is my intrepid taste tester – had a few questions: How good could a date cookie be? Why didn’t I use chocolate? Could I add chocolate? Are those pecans? Why wasn’t I adding chocolate? It wasn’t until I stuffed a cookie into his questioning mouth that his protests ceased. Ruby knows best!
Ruby’s notes say you can scoop and bake these cookies, or you can chill the dough, roll it into logs, chill it again, slice it, and then bake. Honestly, I am too impatient to chill, roll, chill, slice, and bake. I just chill, scoop, bake, and DEVOUR. These cookies keep remarkably well in an airtight container at room temperature, so they are great for keeping on hand for snacking. If you are so inclined you could add a little cinnamon to these cookies. Ruby had a note that you could, but she never added it as far as I can remember, so neither do I.
I gave some of these cookies to a friend recently. She, like my husband, was skeptical of the dates. She took one to be polite but warned me that dates are not really her thing. She came back for three more, noting that these cookies are, and I quote, ‘legit’. She said they reminded her of pecan pie, and that is a perfect comparison. These are some of my very favorite cookies, and I can’t eat them without thinking of my Aunt Ruby.
Food Photography and Styling by Kelly Jaggers
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- 1 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 3 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 cups roughly chopped pecans, toasted
- 1 1/2 cups chopped pitted dates
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar on low speed until well combined, about 2 minutes.
- Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat until they are thoroughly incorporated, about 30 seconds per egg.
- After the last egg has been added add the vanilla and stir to mix. The mixture may look slightly broken at this stage. This is normal.
- Add the flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix on low speed until the flour is almost absorbed by the butter.
- Then add the pecans and dates and mix until everything is well distributed. Cover the dough with plastic and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- Heat the oven to 350°F and line two baking sheets with baking parchment. Scoop the chilled dough by rounded tablespoons onto the prepared baking sheet leaving at least 2 inches between each cookie to allow for spread.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the cookie is puffed, looks dry all over, and the edges are golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the pan before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.