When I was a kid, there was always a Christmas-y tin of date balls sitting around on our kitchen counter during the holidays. They were one of my favorite treats and I looked forward to them every year. They were made even more special when I became old enough to help make them!
Having failed at locating the original recipe my family used, I’ve tried a couple of different ones over the years that just haven’t been quite right. Now, finally, I have recreated this lovely confection from my childhood Christmasses. I had to combine ideas from a couple of different recipes and tweak them a little myself, but I have done it!
Despite this being a very simple recipe, I see all the time where folks have a heck of a time getting the mixture to form into balls. I’ve done a little troubleshooting and discovered two very important tips that will prevent this from happening to your treats:
Do Not Use Pre-Chopped Snacking Dates
The snacking dates usually have a coating on them that keeps them from sticking to your fingers. While this is great for snacking, the coating will contribute to preventing your date ball mixture from sticking together to form nicely-packed balls. I recommend using the 8 ounce bags of whole pitted dates.
Size Matters – Smaller The Better
I highly recommend busting out the food processor when chopping up your dates and pecans. Large chunks can make it difficult to pack together your date balls. A food processor gets the job done quickly and you’ll be left with very fine pieces of dates and pecans, which is exactly what you want.
Keep in mind that these are naturally very sweet. Dates are a naturally sweet stone fruit, and as this recipe contains sugar in the base and then are rolled in powdered sugar, it can become sweetness overload.
I tested this recipe using different ratios of sugar and cereal and have arrived at a good amount of both that results in a nice texture without being too cloying. Also, instead of rolling the balls in powdered sugar, I dust them on all sides using a fine mesh strainer. To me, the purpose of the powdered sugar is to keep the balls from sticking to your fingers, because they are already sweet enough. Go easy on the powdered sugar and you’ll love the balance here!
I hope you all enjoy these as much as I did as a small kid and still do today. Enjoy!
|Old-Fashioned Date Balls|| |
- ½ cup (1 stick) butter
- ¾ cup white granulated sugar
- 8 ounces pitted dates, finely chopped
- 1 cup pecans, finely chopped
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups crisped rice cereal
- Powdered sugar, for dusting or rolling
- Make sure the dates and pecans are chopped very fine - I recommend using a food processor. Do not use the pre-chopped dates with the coating on them that prevents them from being sticky, or your balls won't stick together.
- In a saucepan over medium low heat, cook the butter, granulated sugar, and the dates until the sugar has fully dissolved.
- Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract, pecans, and cereal. Use a non-stick spatula to combine everything. Let the mixture cool for several minutes.
- Use your hands and form the mixture into 1-inch balls. Place the balls on parchment paper or a baking sheet. Dust lightly with powdered sugar (or you can roll them in a bowl of powdered sugar) and store in an airtight container.
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