I wonder if making old-fashioned recipes turns you into an old lady. I certainly feel like a boring old lady when I make recipes like this one, not to mention all those recipes for bread and cookies with molasses. At least this recipe features dates rather than wrinkled prunes. Dates I can handle, though my personal preference would include chocolate or peanut butter and random variations like pretzels, rosemary or smoked paprika. Nope, that doesn't sound old ladyish to me. I guess I'm still young in my cookie tastes.
But anyway, we should get to these date-stuffed cookies before I do turn into an old lady. These crispy cookies come from my grandma's cousin, Edythe, on mom's side of the family. My mom was kind enough to tell me about the version my grandma made around the holidays. The bottom cookie was round while the top had a flower shape. The "petals" were pressed down with a fingertip to seal in the sticky date filling. We found the actual cookie cutter my grandma used on the bottom layer but couldn't find the exact one she used on top.
The dough is very wet and sticky so you'll need a well-floured surface. Edythe's recipe suggests using a rolling pin cover and canvas cover over a big bread board. I didn't use the covers, but a well-floured board did work better than the counter top. These cookies are thin and crisp except for the sticky date filling. Oatmeal adds a little texture to an otherwise very sweet vanilla cookie. Tasty but like I said, not exactly my favorite type of cookie. At least not yet.
Date-Filled Oatmeal Cookies
recipe from my grandma's cousin, Edythe
1/2 cup shortening
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup milk**
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1 cup quick-cooking oats
**Original recipe calls for sour milk OR 1/4 cup milk mixed with 1/2 tsp baking soda. I used fresh milk and baking soda here.
1 cup chopped dates
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
vanilla, optional (original recipe calls for an unspecified amount, I decided not to use any)
* In a large bowl cream together shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. In a small cup combine milk and baking soda. Add to creamed mixture along with salt and vanilla. Beat to combine. Stir in flour and oats. Chill dough 1-2 hours or overnight.
*Meanwhile, for date filling, combine dates, water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Simmer until a paste forms and liquid evaporates, about 15 minutes. Stir in vanilla if using.
*Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. On a well-floured board use a well-floured rolling pin to thinly roll out dough, ideally 1/8-inch or 1/4-inch at most. Dough will be sticky, keep unused portions of dough chilled. Use a 2 to 2-1/2-inch cookie cutter to cut out circles.
* Transfer half of circles to greased baking sheets. Top each circle with 1 tsp date filling. Gently place a second circle on top of filling and press down edges. Bake 9-11 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Let stand 1-2 minutes before transferring to wire cooling racks.
Food for Thought: "The source of a true smile is an awakened mind. Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding." -Thich Nhat Hanh