Is there anything nicer than the smell of freshly-baked cookies wafting through your home? The way it makes you feel warm and fuzzy, maybe even takes you back to that special place? Mielie, a dear friend, colleague, and amazing cook, recently whipped up a batch of these wonderfully festive date and coconut cookies, and it was so good that we had to get and share the recipe with our She said readers! They’re super easy to make and go so well with a cup of tea. Even makes a great gift for your loved ones during the holidays! Read what she said.
Whether the occasion is Christmas, Eid or Diwali in Durban, South Africa, you can rest assured that a plate of freshly-baked date and coconut cookies is easily within reach. Most mums of Indian and Pakistani origin have a date and coconut cookie (or “date rolls” as they’re often called) recipe on hand as part of their baking repertoire. And come any festive occasion, the smell of toasted coconut, butter and vanilla permeates one’s home. It’s just heavenly. Sigh.
As I won’t be spending Christmas with my family back in Durban and I’m feeling a tad nostalgic about childhood Christmases, I decided to whip up a batch of these yummy cookies. Despite being a fantastic cook, my mother was of no help at all when I rang her up last week to procure the recipe. “Hmmm, I don’t actually have a recipe, I just dump the ingredients in,” was my mother’s response where she proceeded to give me instructions for a “pinch” of this, a “scoop” of that and a “handful” of something. I’m a firm believer in old adage that “baking is a science and cooking is an art” so after a few minutes of her unhelpful measurements and tips, I got off the phone and got on Google to figure it out myself. After looking up a number of recipes, I found one that was closest to the cookie I grew up eating. A few tweaks later, I produced something that reminded me of home and Christmases of yesteryear.
Behold the Durban Saffer-style date and coconut cookie recipe.
In a large bowl or the mixing bowl of a food processor, dump in butter, sugar, sifted flour, two eggs, a pinch of salt, baking powder and vanilla extract. Make sure that your butter and eggs are at room temperature and that your flour is sifted and free of lumps. Now it’s time to apply some elbow grease – mix in the ingredients with your hands and knead very lightly until the dough comes together and all ingredients are well incorporated. If you’re using a food processor, a few pulses will suffice and you will be rewarded with a soft ball of dough.
Before you go any further, make sure you preheat your oven to 180 degree Celsius or 350 degrees Fahrenheit for those Imperial measurement lovers. Go on, do it now!
Pinch off small pieces of dough and roll them between your hands. The size of the dough ball should be that of a Ferrero Rocher chocolate. Then slice your dates into small pieces – they should be no bigger than your finger nail (if you have short finger nails). Now take a piece of date and lightly press it into the dough ball and cover up the fruit with the dough. Roll the date-filled dough ball into perfect little orbs.
Next you pour out a little shredded coconut onto a plate or shallow bowl and gently roll the dough balls in coconut one by one. Make sure the balls are evenly and generously coated in coconut.
Pull out your largest baking sheet and line it with baking paper or parchment paper. I love baking paper as it saves you the hassle of washing up a sheet pan (I despise doing dishes by the way). Place the dough balls evenly and leave enough space between them as they will rise and spread out a little during the baking process. Pop the baking sheet, with your lovely spheres of coconut flecked dough, into the preheated oven and set your timer for approximately 15 minutes. Don’t walk away or put on an episode of American Horror Story as each oven is different – some cookies may take 20 minutes, some may take just under 15 minutes, it’s hard to tell. Once the cookies are golden brown and your kitchen smells of toasted coconut, it’s time to extract them.
By the time you put the kettle on and make a cup of your favourite tea, you will be able to sink your gnashers into a warm, soft cookie with a rich gooey date filling. Nom nom nom and happy holidays!
[kindred-recipe id=”2028″ title=”Festive date and coconut cookies”]
Join Mielie (aka Amelia) as she embarks on a culinary adventure, sampling weird and wonderful ingredients that she discovers in Dubai and during her travels. With supermarkets, restaurants and vendors offering a diverse array of foods across different cultures and countries, Mielie hopes to expose her – and your – taste buds to exciting dishes and produce.
Coming soon on www.mieliemeals.com