Gluten Free or Not–Gearing Up for the Holiday

I feel so blessed for all the wonderful gluten free pioneers out there that have made it possible for me to enjoy quality baked goods to include some of my gluten favorites.  I give to all of you a round of applause.

 The holiday season is here and with it comes some added baking and candying making.  Several years ago I started a tradition of sharing an assortment of homemade goodies with family, friends and co-workers.  Last year I continued the tradition even though I steered more away from my traditional favorites in favor of some items that could be made gluten free.  This year I am getting to enjoy a very special recipe gluten free.

My very best friend and I have been friends for over 30 years.  That is amazing.  During this time we have shared so many wonderful times together.  Several years ago we did some holiday baking together and she shared with me a recipe for Date Balls.  The recipe was one of her mothers.  

This recipe was a family tradition when she was growing up and she continued the tradition when she had kids of her own.  When she passed this recipe on I too made it a tradition until last year.  Now thanks to the availability of gluten free Rice Krispies, I can once again enjoy this holiday tradition.

Date Balls
Yield:  4 Dozen
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 2 tablespoons milk 
  • 4 cups Rice Krispies cereal (Use gluten free if you are gluten sensitive.)
  • 2 cups chopped dates
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 0.5 (14 ounce) package sweetened flaked coconut
In a heavy pan, over medium low heat, melt the butter and sugar taking care not to burn.  Stir in the chopped dates and bring to a boil.  Remove mixture from heat and allow to cool slightly.
In a small dish beat together the milk, salt and eggs.  Add a small amount of date mixture to eggs and beat.  This helps to temper the eggs and keeps them from curdling.  Stir the egg mixture into the dates and bring to a boil.  Boil for 2 minutes.

Stir in vanilla and pecans.  Allow mixture to cool and add in cereal, stirring to combine.  Butter hands and shape into well rounded tablespoon size balls.  Roll in flaked coconut.  Store in an air-tight container.
Here are a few tips from my lessons learned this morning when I once again made the recipe.

(1)  I chop my own dates.  Buying them whole-pitted is cheaper.  To make chopping them easier, I lightly spray my chef’s knife with non-stick cooking spray.

(2)  Make sure you have a full 4 cup measure of crispy rice cereal.

(3)  If you are having problems getting the mixture to form a ball it may be to warm.  It holds together better when it is only slightly warm to the touch or at room temperature.

(4)  I had better luck forming them with slightly moist hands and my medium size cookie scoop.

(5)  If you have an aversion to getting your hands yucky, don’t make this recipe.

(6)  This is a great recipe to get the family involved, even the little ones.  I kept thinking about how much fun this would be with my granddaughters.
(7)  Since the recipe makes a lot it is ideal for helping to fill out a cookie tray.

(8)  Resist the temptation to sample.  It will only slow down the process.  Once the last one has been formed, roll in coconut and pop into your mouth.  Enjoy!

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