THE RECIPE BOX - Date balls: A new tradition in the Hanson house?

THE RECIPE BOX - Date balls: A new tradition in the Hanson house?

LINCOLN – Well the holidays have come and gone and a new year is in place.

This year, I decided to try making date balls, my first and maybe last attempt at this round, rolled cookie with coconut and dates.

There’s a backstory, though. Years ago, my father’s cousin Dot Flowers used to come bearing a cookie tin filled with her homemade date balls. They quickly became known as “Dot’s Date Balls” and arrived sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas every year.

They are the type of dessert cookie that you either love or hate. My uncle Andy raved about them and so the next year she doubled the batch. Once again, he raved about them and I swear she tripled it the next time.

Now there’s only so many date balls one person can eat, and so the extras went packing to my in-laws. Mom and Dad Hanson loved them. This went on for many years – probably until she got too old and tired to make them.

But this year, my mother-in-law happened to mention to me how much she missed those date balls, and I decided to try making them for her.

I Googled a recipe and chose the one with a photo that most resembled the ones I’d had before. I went shopping for my ingredients and soon learned how expensive pitted dates are, along with a huge box of Rice Krispies, flaked coconut, butter, sugar and eggs. Unfortunately, I did not buy gloves and that was my mistake!

The day came to make them and I read and re-read the instructions carefully. I was diligent and learned that this recipe comes together quickly after the boiling stage and the sputter of the hot date lava was to be remembered. Tempering the eggs was a bit challenging, and I feared having a scrambled egg cookie for just a second.

The real obstacle was just how dang hot the mixture was (as I tried bare-handed to roll it) and as it cooled, I was afraid it would not gel together properly. I needed some heat to help the coconut to adhere. The dance began, and I was determined to win.

All was rolled and set on parchment paper to cool. I wrapped these little babies in airtight containers, a bit proud of my creation and with a whole new respect for my father’s cousin Dot.

Had any of us known how much they cost to make and how much work was involved, suffice to say good manners would have prevented us from even suggesting we needed more.

My cell phone rang right smack in the middle of the cookie-making and it was my mother. “I can’t pick up the phone, Mom,” I shouted. “I’ll call you back.” Fact is my hands were covered in sticky hot goo.

I finally returned her call and said, “You’ll never guess what I just made, and by the way I have a new respect for Dot Flowers.”

“I made Dot’s date balls!” I said, quite proud of myself. My mom simply asked, why? I explained my reason was to give some to my in-laws, rekindle a memory of cousin Dot and then she understood.

I also told her it was a one-shot-wonder for me at the time. But lo and behold, my oldest son, Josh, showed up at the house one day and helped himself to a couple of the date balls.

“Hey, Mom, what are those things?” he asked. I answered, “Date balls, why?” “Those cookies are awesome,” he said.

And so, I fear I may have to make them again and begin a new tradition.

Coconut Krispie 
Date Ball Cookies

Beyond Frosting


11 oz. dates, chopped

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs, slightly beaten

1 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla extract

6 cups Rice Krispie cereal (or similar cereal)

1 bag (7oz.) sweetened shredded coconut


• Remove pits and chop dates into small pieces, about the size of a dime. Dates are very sticky, use latex gloves.

• In a large saucepan, melt butter and sugar together, stirring occasionally until the butter is melted.

• Turn the heat to low and add chopped dates and cook until mixture is boiling, about 15 to 20 minutes. Stir frequently to prevent mixture from burning.

• In a separate bowl, combine eggs, milk and vanilla extract. Once the mixture is boiling, take about 1/4 cup of the mixture and pour it into the eggs, and whisk constantly to temper the eggs.

• Remove the saucepan from the stovetop and pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan. You will want to work quickly so they do not become scrambled.

• Return mixture to the stovetop and boil for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the mixture from the heat. In a large mixing bowl, combine rice cereal with date mixture and stir until evenly coated. Allow the mixture to cool until it can be handled.

• Shape date mixture into balls (1 to 2 tablespoons in size) and place on a sheet pan. For a higher yield, reduce the size of the balls.

• Place the shredded coconut in a separate bowl and roll each date ball (one at a time) in the shredded coconut, gently pressing coconut into the dates. Refrigerate the date balls for one hour. Store in an airtight container and keep refrigerated or frozen.

These date balls are made with pitted dates, Rice Krispies and coconut.