Thursday, December 23, 2010

Date Nut Bars: A Christmas Classic from “Ann Pillsbury”

A few posts ago I told you about Sue’s mom’s Christmas cookies. Just a day after I posted it, the postman brought us a box containing . . . Sue’s mom’s Christmas cookies!

Oh, joy!

Here’s the first one we chomped: Date Nut Bars!

They’re cakey and chewy and a little crumbly. Not too sweet. And they look great, too.

They’re ex-cel-lent with coffee and tea!!! (Three exclamation points = Big emphasis!)

Mrs. F. says to double this for a 10×15 inch pan, or a 9×12. And yes, you’ll want to make plenty.

Date Nut Bars

“Developed by Ann Pillsbury.”

“Easy and quick to make! Chewy and moist to eat!”

“Makes 2 dozen.”

Bake at 350 degrees for 25–30 minutes.

Sift together into a large bowl:

3/4 c. sifted Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Flour*
1/2 t. double-acting baking powder
1/2 t. salt


1 c. firmly packed brown sugar; mix well.

Blend in, and mix thoroughly:

2 well-beaten eggs
2 T melted butter

Stir in:

1 c. walnuts or pecans, chopped [Mrs. F. uses pecans!]
1 c. dates, cut in small pieces

Spread in well-greased 11×7 or 9×9 inch pan.

Bake in moderate oven (350 degrees) 25–30 minutes. While warm, cut into bars. If desired, roll in confectioners’ sugar before serving.

* “If you use Pillsbury’s Best Enriched Self-Rising Flour (sold in parts of the South), omit baking powder and salt.”

A Few Notes

Mrs. Ferber got the recipe from a vintage Pillsbury cookie cookbook from the fifties: Pillsbury’s Best Butter Cookie Cookbook, volume 2. Hers is a well-loved and well-used cookbook! You can find copies of the publication for sale online.

Originally this cookbook was only 20 cents a copy, but now it and volume 3 of the same book are selling for $10–13 for a decent copy. (Hey, Pillsbury! Maybe it’s time to think about a special vintage-reprint edition, with all the same cool artwork, typesetting, and recipes, just modified slightly where your products have changed?) (I mean, look what Better Homes and Gardens recently did—they’re offering a glorious facsimile edition of their 1950 Picture Cookbook! What a cool thing, huh?)

Not thinking I was ever going to quote it for anything but my own use, I didn’t copy the recipe word-for-word. So Capital “T” means tablespoon; lowercase “t” means teaspoon. The original had that kinda stuff spelled out. I did copy the important points of the recipe. It’s from p. 36.

By the way, I’m pretty sure that “Ann Pillsbury” is a myth, like Betty Crocker, Aunt Jemima, and Mrs. Butterworth. (Duncan Hines, however, was indeed a real person!)

Finally, my blog-formatting skills don’t allow me to reproduce the unique and helpful two-column typesetting pioneered in the original publication. If you can find a copy, you’ll see it’s pretty neat.


whalechaser said...

Being Christmas and all, I have all the ingredients...Think I'll make a bath of these this morning, sounds delicious!
Thanks a bunch for sharing!

Julianna Schroeder said...

I hope they turned out well! If they're anywhere close to Sue's mom's cookies, you'll be adding them to your list of Christmas cookie "must-do's"!

And thank you, Whalechaser, for your kind comment--this and others. I do appreciate it.

Merry Christmas!

whalechaser said...

Oh My Gosh!!!!
these are fabulous!!! I made a batch for me....then I thought I would make a batch for my favorite cousin in St Genevieve, MO (you know...for her birthday) WOW
They inhaled them. I am trying to decide if I should sell her the recipe or maybe just give it to her.
Still thinking.
Thanks for a great recipe. Did I tell you I made another batch last night for me? I did.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Ellen, I'm glad you liked it! For me, it's the texture that really makes them stand out--a perfect combination of crumb and crunch.

Well, then, and of course . . . *anything* with powdered sugar--!

(Hey, did you know my dad wrote a book about Ste. Genevieve?)

hkj*324 said...

My Grandma Sammie's famous Christmas cookie! I made them every year with her from age 4 (I'm now 61). She died 18yrs ago, but left me the recipe on an index card. I have taken over the Christmas cookie tradition now and I made a batch this morning. The original recipe had melted Crisco as the binding agent, but I have always used butter (real). I guess I'll be the end of this tradition, as my 20-something son doesn't eat any nuts and won't try the cookies without.
It is nice to see people bringing them back around, again!

Julianna Schroeder said...

Oh, my--if your son doesn't want 'em, don't stop making them on his account. Find another young person to pass it down to! Also remember, people's tastes change . . . Don't give up!

Since I've added this cookie to my repertoire (sharing my sweetie's family tradition to those in my own family), I've gotten rave reviews. I guess next year I'll make a quadruple batch!

By the way, I was out of regular table salt, so I used a coarse sea salt when I made them, and it resulted in tiny pockets of intensely salty flavor--and it tasted incredible! I'm putting that note on my recipe card, so I'll do it again that way!

Thank you again for your comment, and keep makin' them cookies!