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"Help me with this recipe!"


Katie Nell
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My grandmother made these rolled in coconut: very simple, tasty items!

I'm quite sure that "soft ball" doesn't have anything to do with temp but, rather, rolling the ground dates into a ball. So just stir it until the liquid has evaporated sufficiently to allow you to roll the date meat into a ball, sort of a firm cookie dough consistency.

No. "Soft ball" definitely meant the temperature the cooking candy reached. Having made this and many other recipes for years before I ever bothered to buy a candy thermometer, I can tell you that what you did to determine what temperature the boiling candy had reached was to get a glass (in our case, a glass measuring cup) and fill it with ice water. You dropped a spoonful of the candy into that ice water and then plied it with your fingers. "Soft ball" was when it would just hold together and form an, um, "soft ball." It went up to "firm ball," "hard ball," "soft crack," and "hard crack." The "crack" referred to the sound it made when you hit the ball against the side of the glass.

"Soft ball" is about 236-240 on your candy thermometer and is exactly what my mama's Date Nut Loaf called for.

Reading through the all posts for this topic, it seems that the take on this recipe is at least somewhat generationally bound; my own understanding of 'date roll' is the same as Chris A's, both because of the sorts of date sweets I recollect eating when I was a kid, and the recipes I'm familiar with that refer to various 'ball' stages, all of which have the sugar syrup alone reach the desired stage, before any other ingredient is added.

I'm sure you're right about the generational thing. That Date Nut Roll/Loaf candy was popular when I was growing up, in the 50's and 60's. And, as I said, it remained my mother's very favorite sweet all her life, even until her death about five years ago at the age of 90. In fact, that's one of my favorite memories of her - standing at the open fridge, digging around in the freezer (that's where she kept it, hidden from the rest of us under the frozen peas or something), and cutting off a piece.

In those days, we saw that candy fairly often at gatherings, potlucks, etc. But the only place I've seen it in several decades has been in my own kitchen, where I often made it for her. And, I've taken it to some group get-togethers a time or two and nobody was familiar with it at all.

What became more popular, probably for ease of preparation, transport, serving, etc., were a plethora of date bars, date squares, date cookies, and the little rolled up date balls that CA mentions. And of course because these things come and go in and out of fashion.

I would not have been so positive about that candy if it had not been for the instructions to roll it up in a wet cloth. That's fairly distinctive. And for me, that's the definitive clue. I don't think that's the sort of thing that would get inadvertently added to a sketchy recipe one was trying to reconstruct from long-forgotten and incomplete notes.

I agree about boiling the sugar, butter, cream by itself. But as far as the exact moment when "Ma" added the dates and nuts, that is exactly the sort of thing that Ma might have just known and for which she might not have written down explicit instructions. Or perhaps she did, but they got lost over time.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Rice crispies, coconut: that's what I'm talking about.

So if Jaymes is right, then what's the recipe for the date thingies that the rest of us remember?

Date Balls

2 eggs, well beaten

1 cup sugar

rounded tablespoonful of butter

1 1/2 cups chopped dates

1 tsp. vanilla

2 c. rice krispies

1/2 c. chopped pecans or walnuts

shredded coconut

Mix eggs, sugar, and butter in saucepan; add dates.

Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and add vanilla.

Dump mixture into a bowl that contains the cereal and nuts; mix.

Roll into small balls with buttered hands and roll in coconut to finish.

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I know this as a Date Snowball.

Has no nuts or coconut and is rolled in powdered sugar.

Known strictly as a Christmas cookie and the sight of one of my friends, laughing, with powdered sugar all down the front of her party clothes, is a fond one for me.

I think people used to make date confections of various sorts more often than they do now -- it's an old fashioned taste, and one of my favorites.

There is an enormous date discussion in the eGullet archives that includes, I believe, multiple recipes for date roll.

I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.

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Bizarre coincidence – my mother and I went to NC to visit my grandmother this weekend and Mr. Kim welcomed us home with dinner. Dessert included this:

med_gallery_3331_114_201459.jpg

It is a date-nut roll that he got at Whole Foods. He had no idea about my Date Roll post here. I hadn’t talked to him about it at ALL. We’ve never had it before – I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted it. He says that he doesn’t think he has either. He was just wandering around WF and noticed it and thought it would fit in well with his meal. He served it with pears and grapes. How does it work that I have Date Roll in my brain for the first time in my life and in the same week, he grabs it on impulse at the store :blink: ? Very odd. Anyway, Momma says it is VERY similar to Ma’s, so I know what I’m shooting for!

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Haven't read the entire thread yet, but Date Nut Balls were, and still are, one of my favorite Christmas treats. It looks like your recipe is pretty similar to my mother's, although I don't remember the milk. I'll have to dig it up when I get home. We always scooped it out into truffle-sized balls and then rolled those in a variety of items - sweetened, shredded coconut; ground nuts; or rice krispies. I also think that we used rice krispies instead of ground nuts in the actual candies as well. I adored eating them when still warm and would stuff myself silly with them...

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Oh man, when I was a little kid, every single time we were at my grandmother's house, my great-grandmother would come down the hall to the living room with a box of dates and offer them to everyone. Weird which memories we manage to keep. Anyway, it was always a flat box similar to chocolates, I'd say definitely in the neighborhood of one pound.

The only other semi-related thing I have to add here is....last night I roasted and ate ten merguez stuffed dates. Our new local butcher shop is going to be my downfall.

Jerry

Kansas City, Mo.

Unsaved Loved Ones

My eG Food Blog- 2011

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Bizarre coincidence – my mother and I went to NC to visit my grandmother this weekend and Mr. Kim welcomed us home with dinner. Dessert included this:

med_gallery_3331_114_201459.jpg

It is a date-nut roll that he got at Whole Foods. He had no idea about my Date Roll post here. I hadn’t talked to him about it at ALL. We’ve never had it before – I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted it. He says that he doesn’t think he has either. He was just wandering around WF and noticed it and thought it would fit in well with his meal. He served it with pears and grapes. How does it work that I have Date Roll in my brain for the first time in my life and in the same week, he grabs it on impulse at the store :blink: ? Very odd. Anyway, Momma says it is VERY similar to Ma’s, so I know what I’m shooting for!

Clearly y'all have that ESP thing going.

The Whole Foods candy is similar. Obviously prepared in a log or loaf, or pan of some sort, and sliced; not rolled into balls.

But, for what it's worth - that looks darker than the Date Nut Loaf/Roll Candy that was ubiquitous in the 50's, 60's, 70's. The color of my mother's, and mine, and everybody else's that I remember, was somewhat lighter - more the color of southern creamy pralines flecked with the dark dates and nuts. And, as well as the color, the texture was also similar to those pralines and (if you're familiar with it) the Mexican milk candy - Leche Quemada. It was sort of that praline stuff holding together chopped dates and nuts. And it was very rich. And depending upon how perfectly you had done the cooking and beating of the hot candy, sometimes it didn't "set up" as well as others. That's one reason my mother always stored the log wrapped in the wet dishtowel in the freezer. It helped with the consistency if she hadn't gotten it quite right and, with all that sugar, it never really froze solidly. Remained pretty soft and easy to cut. So she'd just cut as much as we were going to eat in one sitting.

Or as much as she could eat in one standing - with her head sticking into the freezer, the door shielding her covert activity from the rest of the family.

ETA - Want to expand a bit on the "praline" thing I mentioned above.

I don't know if you've ever made those New Orleans/Southern-style pralines (or Mexican milk candy) but, basically, you take the first three ingredients in your "Ma's" date candy recipe (sugar, milk [or cream], butter), boil them to soft ball, take off the fire and add any flavorings you might want (vanilla, cinnamon, etc.), beat til the mixture loses its gloss, add pecans, quickly drop onto waxed paper and just hope to goodness you've done all that correctly and they "set up." So it's no coincidence that your Ma's candy has a similar look and texture to those creamy-style pralines (not the chewy ones).

The only thing you're really adding that's different is all those dates. They definitely change the color and texture of the resulting candy, of course, but a great many similarities remain.

Edited by Jaymes (log)

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes, have you ever have praline roll? My grandpa's cook used to pour the praline mixture out on the kitchen work table, (enamel top) spread vanilla nougat on it (working quickly while both were still warm) then roll the mass up like a jelly roll and slice it into discs that looked like pinwheels.

Years later I came across a commercial candy that was similar but I haven't seen it for decades.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Jaymes, have you ever have praline roll? My grandpa's cook used to pour the praline mixture out on the kitchen work table, (enamel top) spread vanilla nougat on it (working quickly while both were still warm) then roll the mass up like a jelly roll and slice it into discs that looked like pinwheels.

Years later I came across a commercial candy that was similar but I haven't seen it for decades.

No. Wow... Talk about gilding the lily!

I come from a pretty strong "praline" background, too. But that's a new one on me.

I have a hard enough time getting the stuff out of the pan. I can't imagine how one would roll it up. Wonder if she made any adjustments to the standard praline recipe.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Oh man, when I was a little kid, every single time we were at my grandmother's house, my great-grandmother would come down the hall to the living room with a box of dates and offer them to everyone. Weird which memories we manage to keep. Anyway, it was always a flat box similar to chocolates, I'd say definitely in the neighborhood of one pound.

I hadn't really thought about this much until this thread, but as MJX points out above, it does seem "generational," as though dates used to be much more popular. We loved them in our household. But fruits in general used to be far more common as a standalone dessert, I think, just like your great-grandmother passing around the date box. I remember platters of dates and figs and dried apricots presented basically unadorned with evening port.

Haven't seen that in many years. Not sure why, except that these things go in and out of fashion, of course.

But I suspect that it also has something to do with our increasing taste for refined sugar treats. Just plain ol' fruit doesn't do it for us anymore.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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Jaymes, have you ever have praline roll? My grandpa's cook used to pour the praline mixture out on the kitchen work table, (enamel top) spread vanilla nougat on it (working quickly while both were still warm) then roll the mass up like a jelly roll and slice it into discs that looked like pinwheels.

Years later I came across a commercial candy that was similar but I haven't seen it for decades.

No. Wow... Talk about gilding the lily!

I come from a pretty strong "praline" background, too. But that's a new one on me.

I have a hard enough time getting the stuff out of the pan. I can't imagine how one would roll it up. Wonder if she made any adjustments to the standard praline recipe.

She poured it out onto the (enamel topped) table and squared up the edges with the side of a biscuit pan and flattened it with the bottom of the pan (buttered) and then poured the warm nougat on the top, spread that with a big wood spatula that she also used for stirring grits.

It was still pretty hot when she started rolling it but her hands could obviously take a lot of heat.

It had to be sliced with a hot knife while it was still soft. She wrapped the individual slices in waxed paper.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Jaymes, have you ever have praline roll? My grandpa's cook used to pour the praline mixture out on the kitchen work table, (enamel top) spread vanilla nougat on it (working quickly while both were still warm) then roll the mass up like a jelly roll and slice it into discs that looked like pinwheels.

Years later I came across a commercial candy that was similar but I haven't seen it for decades.

No. Wow... Talk about gilding the lily!

I come from a pretty strong "praline" background, too. But that's a new one on me.

I have a hard enough time getting the stuff out of the pan. I can't imagine how one would roll it up. Wonder if she made any adjustments to the standard praline recipe.

She poured it out onto the (enamel topped) table and squared up the edges with the side of a biscuit pan and flattened it with the bottom of the pan (buttered) and then poured the warm nougat on the top, spread that with a big wood spatula that she also used for stirring grits.

It was still pretty hot when she started rolling it but her hands could obviously take a lot of heat.

It had to be sliced with a hot knife while it was still soft. She wrapped the individual slices in waxed paper.

Was this praline or caramel and pecans? I used to have something like this when I was a child, but it was caramel, not praline.

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Janeer, it was praline. My grandpa had a large grove of pecan trees so we had a huge supply.

She also made caramels but it was quite different.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Janeer, it was praline. My grandpa had a large grove of pecan trees so we had a huge supply.

She also made caramels but it was quite different.

Wow, I can't imagine how it could be rolled up without breaking/cracking.

You have to work fast, while it is still hot and it seizes fast so locks into place almost instantly.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Janeer, it was praline. My grandpa had a large grove of pecan trees so we had a huge supply.

She also made caramels but it was quite different.

Wow, I can't imagine how it could be rolled up without breaking/cracking.

You have to work fast, while it is still hot and it seizes fast so locks into place almost instantly.

I've been thinking about this and don't see how this would work with a typical "creamy praline" recipe. The individual pralines are so fragile that they often crumble even while you're trying to wrap them in cellophane or something, and I don't see any way they would hold up to rolling.

I can, however, see how it would work with the typical "chewy praline" recipe. That produces a much more substantial candy.

I don't understand why rappers have to hunch over while they stomp around the stage hollering.  It hurts my back to watch them. On the other hand, I've been thinking that perhaps I should start a rap group here at the Old Folks' Home.  Most of us already walk like that.

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