Date-Crisp Balls are simple to make, on the stove top with no baking, and the dates impart a luscious caramel flavor. And a bonus: they’re gluten-free!
Is this a cookie? Or a candy? How about simply: a treat. An incredibly good treat that comes down to us from my grandmother, Alice Abowd (wife of Richard, confectioner). I don’t know how long Rice Krispie treats have been in circulation, but I have to believe that these pre-date them. Made not with marshmallows but instead a caramel-like sauce of dates, butter and sugar cooked to a creamy thickness, then mixed with crisp rice cereal, I can’t help but call these chewy-crisp sensations a grown-up Rice Krispie treat.
Back in the day, at Christmas my mother would roll the little balls in red sugar, shape them like a strawberry, and even place a plastic green stem in the top. Why a strawberry for Christmas, no idea. Midwest mid-winter dreaming of fancy fruit? Must be what her mom did because that’s how the recipe is written, “Strawberry Cookie.” Then she shifted to rolling the balls in coconut, as evidenced by her revisions in a different colored-ink. I never really knew these sweets had dates in them, or even Rice Krispies, when I ate them with total abandon as a child.
If a date cookie, or date treat of any kind, sends your hand to another corner of the cookie plate, all I can say is: trust—if not me, then the formidable sweet-maker Grandma Abowd—and delectable will be yours.
- 4 tablespoons salted butter
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 large egg, lightly beaten
- 1 cup pitted dates, chopped
- 2 cups Rice Krispies
- 1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
- 1 cup sweetened flaked or unsweetened (desiccated) coconut
- In a small, heavy saucepan over low heat, melt the butter with the sugar. Add the egg and combine, stirring until warmed through, about a minute.
- Add the dates and increase heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick, 5-7 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add the crisp rice cereal and nuts if using. Stir until the cereal completely coated.
- When the mixture is cool enough to handle but still very warm, shape heaping teaspoons of the mixture into cohesive balls between the palms of your hands. Roll in coconut (it will only lightly coat the balls, not completely, which allows for a nice balance of flavors).
- Cool, then store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
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I'm so glad you're here! You'll find among these pages the fresh and classic Lebanese recipes we can't get enough of! My mission is to share my tried + true recipes -- and to help our Lebanese food-loving community keep these culinary traditions alive and on the table. What recipes are you looking for? Let me know!
Your mom has beautiful penmanship — a lost art these days.
I was thinking the exact same thing — penmanship used to be a separate grade on everyone’s report card. It looks remarkably like my mother’s handwriting also, as if the recipe had been pulled from her beloved, beat-up metal recipe box.
Grandma’s handwriting and my mom’s really resemble each other!
Not to eclipse the delicious recipe, this handwriting is known as the Palmer Method and was taught in most schools in the 20th century until the 70’s or so. It then became popular to teach or encourage a more free-form of penmanship.
Can’t wait to try the recipe, thank you!
Yes, nice handwriting that, to me, shows confidence and style.
I remember well our nuns teaching penmanship…..how to hold the writing instrument and how to move your whole arm when writing such that your wrist looks like a turtle’s neck going in and out of its shell (or shirt sleeve).
I also observed that you females always did a lot better than us males. To this day that is true of my poor handwriting, so I often print. And to this day I always notice when someone holds the writing instrument in a way other than the way we were taught. Some times in addition to holding it differently I see them wrapping their arm around such that they are wort of writing upside down. I suppose that is OK too but I always notice the difference.
Yes the date nut rolls do look like candy and we are getting a bit closer to fudge. 🙂
Please add my mom to your blog list! …….Martha shaker
Done! Thank you! xxx
I used to make these with my mom and sisters when I was young! She called them “Fancy Strawberries”. She had the little plastic stems, wherever she got them I don’t know, but we would store them in a baggie and use them over every Christmas. Since my sisters and I will be together this Christmas for the first time in years, I thought I would surprise them with these. My mom passed away years ago and I could not find her old recipe. On a whim I googled “chewy nut balls shaped like strawberries rolled in red sugar” and here it was. Thank you so much for posting this. I am thrilled to have found it! They are yummy!
I’ve never met anyone else who knew about these as strawberry cookies! How delightful! Thank you for sharing, Karen, and Merry Christmas!
Love your site. Learned to love Middle Eastern treats living in Toronto. Thank-you for having this great site; I can cook all my delights.
Have you made any recipes using authentic Jasmine Hydrosol?
Sumac will have a commercial breakthrough………………
I found the Skillet Strawberry Cookie recipe in the Woman’s Day magazine in about 1962. It has been a most requested recipe when I serve a plate of cookies and the “strawberries” are on the plate.!
your recipes are wonderful. it’s such a pleasure to watch you prepare them. and the photography is an inspiration in itself.
as an a side, i’d love to see the rest of your home as your kitchen is perfect. (maybe a video tour?!)
Well thank you so much! That’s an intriguing idea…..
Hi Maureen, Can these Date Crisp Balls be frozen? I am Lebanese and love your website!
Hmmm, I wonder if the crisp rice would survive the freeze. The rest, the dates and etc, would be fine but I worry about texture. Worth a test to see! Thank you for your kind words and for being here!
Strictly Southern girl here but this has long been a favorite Christmas cookie in my family and has always been one cookie that little hands were allowed to help make by rolling into balls. Our only difference was that Mamma’s recipe stirred the coconut into the date mixture with the Rice Krispies and then the balls were rolled in confectioner’s sugar.
Love all your recipes. Thank you for sharing.
Oh I love that Mary, thank you! I bet the coconut in the cookie is fabulous.
Very fortunate to have learned several recipes from my Lebanese mother-in-law (aka Sito) and this one is a favorite. Her recipe did not call for an egg and she used pecans. This will be the perfect time of year to make a batch and try out your version! I always look forward to your posts. Merry Christmas!
We just made a batch yesterday…oh my gosh these are such a treat. I bet delicious with pecans!