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Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

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I do a little holiday baking, but I have never attempted to make holiday candy, except for fudge. I remember my mom making divinity and date roll when I was growing up, but I never really learned to do it on my own. This year I got a hankering for the date roll I had growing up and started digging through mom’s old cookbooks looking for the recipe. Well, I found it, but it was actually just tucked into her very tattered Joy of Cooking circa 1943.

Inside an envelope that says, “It was in the electric frying pan book” I found a very old parchment-like sheet, folded into fourths with a pencil written recipe for date roll. Score! I have no idea who wrote on the front of the envelope, as it’s not my mom’s handwriting and I’m not sure who wrote out the recipe, but I’m guessing it was my grandmother. Clearly, it is very old and starting to deteriorate, so I’m really glad I found it when I did. IMG_0872

If you haven’t had date roll candy, it may sound odd, but it’s really good, I swear! I guess I don’t think about eating dates very often, but they’re actually pretty tasty. My mom really liked them and I remember her affinity for date shakes that she would get when we stopped off at the Date Tree, a famous road stop on California’s I-80, on our way to visit her best friend in Sacramento. While you do taste the dates in the candy, it’s also very sweet, like fudge, so it’s definitely a confection. It also has walnuts to give it some crunch. If you like fudge, you will probably like date roll.

I had to try the old recipe and see if I could make it work. Grandma’s recipe was a little vague. The list of ingredients says:

  • 1 package dates (pitted)
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup broken nuts
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla

I had to assume that a package of dates in grandma’s day and a package in 2012 are probably not the same quantity. My package was 8oz. I also wondered about the milk. I use skim milk at home, but wondered if whole milk or some other variety might be better for this recipe. So I did a little internet research and found a recipe that used almost the same ingredients, but the quantities matched my 8oz package of dates, so I used those measurements instead. The other recipe also included butter, but grandma’s doesn’t. I looked at several date roll recipes and most seemed to have butter, so I figured I would go ahead and add it. I have to assume it would have been ok without it since the old recipe didn’t call for butter.

Here’s how I made it:

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Following the original recipe’s instructions to “cook sugar, milk and dates until they form a soft ball in cold water (stirring while cooking)” I put the first three ingredients into a heavy saucepan and turned the heat to medium until the sugar dissolved.

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

I don’t know much about the rules of candy making, but fortunately I have my mother’s candy thermometer. It has lived in my utensil drawer for over 10 years now and I have never used it, so I hoped it still worked. I attached it to the pan and turned the heat up to medium high and stirred and stirred. After probably 5-7 minutes, it reached the “soft-ball” temperature on the thermometer.IMG_0879

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That’s my mom’s really old, long-handled wooden spoon stirring the candy

Grandma’s directions then say, “Take from fire, add the nuts and vanilla and beat till very thick” so I removed the pan from the burner and added the nuts vanilla, and also the butter. I stirred it all together. It was quite thick and sticky.

Grandma then tells us to “Have ready a cold wet cloth, pour mixture onto cloth and roll up till cold.” I remember the rolled up candy in cloth in the fridge when I was a kid, so I knew what to do there, though I still don’t know why, exactly. The Hubs wondered into the kitchen when I was embarking on the project and proclaimed that he knew all about date roll, too, because his grandma made it, too. He asked if I had my cold cloth ready. I did! I ran a tea towel under very cold water, rung it out and laid it out on the counter to be ready for the rolling step. Once the candy was cooked, I carefully scooped it out of the pan onto the cloth, along the edge.

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

Then, I rolled it up and put it in the fridge to harden over night.

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

In the morning, I unrolled the snake-like affair and sliced off a piece to taste. Bingo, there it was! The familiar sweet date flavor from my childhood! Success!

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy

The candy sits nicely in mom’s Depression-glass candy dish

Grandma’s Old-Fashioned Date Roll Candy

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz pitted dates, chopped finely
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (pecans would also work)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

Directions:

  1. Finely chop dates. (I didn’t chop mine as finely as I should have. Some cooking spray on the knife may make it easier to chop the sticky dates.). Chop nuts and pre-measure butter and vanilla to be ready to add when it’s time.
  2. Run very cold water over a tea towel or other thin cloth, ring most of the water out and then lay out on the counter.
  3. Place dates, sugar and evaporated milk into a heavy saucepan and turn heat to medium. Stir until sugar dissolves, then increase heat to medium high heat. Stir constantly until temperature reaches the soft-ball stage. (If you don’t have a candy thermometer, here’s a resource for determining soft-ball stage).
  4. Remove from heat, then add the butter, nuts and vanilla. Stir until well combined.
  5. Quickly scoop the mixture out of the pan onto the edge of the cloth, forming about a two inch log. Roll the log up in the cloth and place into the fridge to harden.
  6. Unwrap the candy and slice to desired thickness.

Old Fashioned Date Roll Candy


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Easiest Pumpkin and Fruit Galette (Tart)

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Alright, here it is: the easiest pie you’ll ever make! Trust me. People will be highly impressed with your baking skills….and it’s simply delicious!

I don’t do a lot of baking, but not because it’s too technical or because I don’t like sweets. I don’t mind the occasional picky measurements and I definitely love sweets. But therin lies the the problem. If I bake it, I eat it. Since most baked goods are high in carbs, fat and calories, I tend to avoid baking except for the occasional treat or birthday cake. The Hubs is a pie fanatic, so my lack of baking doesn’t serve him well at all.

Last weekend we were invited to a BBQ. In our world, a party means the hosts prepare a main dish and guests are expected to bring a dish and your own booze. So I surveyed the produce in the house to see what I had to work with. A potluck is a great way to use up of an abundance of garden or Bountiful Basket produce. Ah-ha! Fruit. I admit that fruit is not my strong point. I don’t naturally gravitate to it like I do vegetables, so I have a hard time using up the fruit from our bi-weekly basket and from friends who insist I take bags and boxes of peaches, apricots, apples, etc. from their trees at this time of year. The Hubs likes his fruit, but can only eat so much – and we only need so much jam.

So last Saturday, I had some really big nectarines and some little pluots (apparently a cross between a plum and an apricot). I went looking for a recipes and landed on FoodGawker (an amazing food porn site: you gotta check it out). I saw a three-ingredient nectarine galette (I had to look up “galette:” it’s a type of tart). The picture was beautiful and it sounded so simple! Perfect for a busy day when I had multiple kitchen projects going on. It’s also perfect when I can bake something and take to another house – and leave it there.

As usual, I couldn’t leave well enough alone and added my own touches to this lovely recipe.

Here’s how:

Choose the fruit you want to use for the galette. I think any stone fruit, berries or apples or pears would work nicely. Pick what you have or whatever is in season. Like I said, I had some nectarines and some pluots, so I went with those. I considered adding an apple but decided to keep that for lunches. I used two large nectarines and four pluots, but I could have used a little more because it cooks down.

Thinly slice the fruit. My pluots were a little ripe and the nectarines were a little under-ripe, so I sliced the pluots a little thicker and the nectarines a little thinner to ensure even cooking.

Place fruit in a bowl and toss with cornstarch, which helps thicken the fruit juices as it bakes.

Next, unroll a refrigerated pie crust (I know, I should have made my own crust! Maybe next time) onto a large baking sheet or pizza pan. I lined my pan with parchment so it would slide off easily.

Here’s the exciting part! I was making this the same day I made some pumpkin puree. The Hubs wondered into the kitchen and had a taste of the puree, just as I was slicing fruit. He commented that it would be even better with some cinnamon and sugar. Pie freak! That’s when it dawned on me that I had to add some pumpkin to this tart. I scooped out about 1/3 cup puree and spread it on the middle of the crust.

Sprinkle some cinnamon and brown sugar on the puree. It’s like a pumpkin pie under the fruit galette!

Next, dump the fruit on top of the puree and top with more cinnamon, brown sugar and some sliced butter.

Now, fold and tuck the edges of the crust over the sides of the fruit.

Brush the exposed crust with butter (or some people use milk or egg – yolk or white or whole) and sprinkle with brown sugar.

Bake 375 for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Cool and carefully slide onto a serving plate.

Pumpkin & Fruit Galette:

Servings: 8

Ingredients:

(all ingredient amounts are approximate – no fussy measuring needed)

  • 1 refrigerated rolled pie crust (or a homemade pie crust)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree (recipe for homemade here)
  • Sliced fruit (pitted, but not peeled), measuring about 3 1/2-4 cups (I used nectarines and pluots)
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp brown sugar, divided
  • 1-2 Tbsp cinnamon (depending on your personal cinnamon love. Mine is high), divided
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, divided

Directions:

  1. Set refrigerated pie crust out to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Thinly slice fruit, then toss with cornstarch.
  3. Unroll pie crust and place on parchment lined baking pan or pizza pan.
  4. Spread pumpkin puree in center of crust, leaving about a two inch border to fold crust. It’s ok to heap it into a bit of a pile as it will cook down.
  5. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp of brown sugar and 1/2 Tbsp of cinnamon over pumpkin puree.
  6. Spread fruit over puree and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar (reserve a few pinches for outer crust) and cinnamon.
  7. Slice 2 Tbsp of cold butter and tuck into fruit mixture.
  8. Fold and tuck edges of crust over sides of fruit.
  9. Brush outer crust with remaining butter (softened) and sprinkle with remaining brown sugar.
  10. Bake for 35-40 minutes until crust is golden brown and fruit is soft and cooked through.

Notes for next time:

The galette was a hit as dessert at the BBQ. Of course we paired it with some creamy vanilla ice cream. The pumpkin flavor is subtle, just providing some texture to the fruit and another layer of flavor. The Hubs ate his slice in about three bites and was very disappointed that we didn’t have leftovers to take home. Since it’s pretty easy and not horribly fattening, I will make another one for him – maybe with some apples, pears and peaches. I think I would add some chopped pecans to the fruit mixture to give it a little crunch. I might also use some pumpkin pie spice instead of cinnamon over the puree, for a little more pumpkin pie flavor.

This is a great weeknight dessert, because it’s so easy, but it’s so pretty that it also makes an impressive dinner party dessert. The Fall flavors are perfect for a changing seasons menu. I highly recommend you give this one a try and report back here about they type of fruit you used and how it turned out.

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