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.

Date-Crisp Balls
These special little morsels are simple to make, on the stove top with no baking, and the dates impart a luscious caramel flavor. Take care to cook the egg gently, over low heat, with the sugar and butter. These are deliciously gluten-free. Makes about two dozen.

4 tablespoons butter
½ cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup dates, finely chopped
2 cups crisp rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies
½ cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut, 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.

Print this recipe here.

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