Holiday Cookie Recipes: Brown Butter Date-Walnut Rolls from Amelia Saltsman via Marion Cunningham

To help you find the just the right cookie for your holiday baking spree, we're calling up chefs around town for their favorites. Over the next few weeks you'll find recipes for buttery sugar and chewy molasses cookies -- even vegan snickerdoodles, if you must (we run a Democratic Cookie Society). And if you have a cookie you're particularly keen on making this year, let us know and we'll see what can do.

Today's cookie is a brown butter date-walnut "roll," really a walnut-stuffed date that's dipped in a sour cream cake-like cookie batter and glazed with brown butter. Local cookbook author and culinary instructor Amelia Saltsman makes them in large batches and freezes them, always with a cellophane bag and satiny ribbon at the ready for that last minute holiday gift.

Saltsman learned to make these cookies from Marion Cunningham one winter weekend years ago when she visited the cookbook author at her Walnut Creek home. The original recipe is from a later baking edition of The Fannie Farmer Cookbook, the circa 1896 cooking bible that Cunningham updated in 1979. The brown butter, not in the original recipe, was added by Cunningham. "Marion, like her mentor James Beard, thought butter, and sometimes sugar, could cure all the ills of the world," says Saltsman.

Brown Butter Caramel Date-Walnut Rolls

Adapted by Amelia Saltsman from The Fanny Farmer Baking Book by Marion Cunningham.

Note: Make the glaze while the cookies are baking and drizzle over the top while still warm. Saltsman recommends khadrawy or halawi dates from the farmers market, but you can use any variety you have on hand. Makes 60 cookies.

60 moist dates, pitted

60 walnut halves or about 1 ½ cups large walnut pieces

4 tablespoons butter, softened

¾ cup light brown sugar

1 egg, beaten

½ cup sour cream

1 ¼ cups flour

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stuff each date with a walnut half or 2 to 3 walnut pieces. In a stand mixer or with a hand beater, cream the butter until light, then slowly add the sugar, beating until smooth and well blended. Add the egg and beat well. Stir in the sour cream.

2. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, salt baking powder and soda. Slowly add to the butter mixture, beating just until smooth.

3. Dip each stuffed date into the batter and place on an ungreased cookie sheet, leaving about 1 inch between each date (the batter will not form a smooth coating over dates). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly golden around the edges. Transfer to rack and drizzle the brown butter glaze over the date rolls while still warm.

Brown butter glaze

6 tablespoons butter

1 ½ cups powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan until butter is golden brown (be careful not to burn). Remove the pan from heat and stir in the sugar, vanilla and enough cold water (about ¼ cup) to make a runny glaze.


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