One week ago I embarked on an epic baking extravaganza. I started around 10 am and finished (including clean-up) around 3:30 pm. When I was done I had made 236 individual cookies and one pan of bar cookies. These oatmeal-date thumbprints were one of the four varieties I made.
Maybe this sounds crazy to you. Maybe it was a little crazy. I usually spread my holiday baking out more, but this is how it worked out for me this year.
Strangely enough, I think I actually enjoyed this year’s baking saga more than my spread-out and less frenetic baking of year’s past. I decided to make it an event, rather than just another item to be crossed off of my to-do list.
First, I prepped myself for baking battle. I put on comfy pants, a tank top (to stay cool while the oven ran for half a day), sneakers (because I was going to be on my feet for awhile), and my favorite apron. I also set out my ingredients, measuring cups/spoons, and other necessary equipment.
Next up, getting in the holiday spirit. Since I was making these cookies, which were one of my maternal grandma’s specialties, I put on her favorite Christmas album: Anne Murray’s What a Wonderful Christmas.
My grandma has been gone for over 10 years now. It seems strange to say that, to realize that my kids never met her. She was such a large presence in my childhood, it feels impossible that she won’t be a part of theirs.
Christmas was her favorite time of year. She had an impressive Santa collection. Every year she and my mom would each bake a ton of cookies to be delivered to friends, family and teachers.
After she passed away my mom, sister and I had to change the Christmas baking tradition. I couldn’t imagine a Christmas cookie platter without her cookies, so I took it upon myself to make these. Her original recipe didn’t list a baking time or temperature, so I had to improvise. Over the years I have tweaked the recipe, most significantly changing it from a sandwich cookie to a thumbprint. (My rationale: easier to make and eat.)
As I made these cookies, singing along to grandma’s favorite Christmas songs, it felt like she was there with me. Cooking her recipes keeps her memory alive, and while my kids might never get to meet her, they will definitely know her through these cookies.
Oatmeal-Date Thumbprint Cookies (adapted from my grandma’s recipe)
8 ounces chopped dates
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup shortening, melted
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal (not instant)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 1/2 cups flour
In a saucepan, heat the dates, 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup water over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, stir continuosly for 10 minutes until the filling is jam-like and thick. Set aside to cool. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl beat together the eggs and remaining 2 cups sugar. Mix in the shortening, oatmeal, salt & baking soda. Stir in flour and 2/3 cup hot water to make a dough.
Portion dough into small balls on an ungreased baking sheet (I used a cookie scoop). Use your thumb to make an indent in each ball (you might want to dip your thumb in some flour to keep it from sticking). Portion approximately 1/2 teaspoon of the date filling into ea h indent.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Let cool 1 minute on the baking sheet, then transfer to a cooling rack to cool completely.
Makes: 80 cookies
Time: 45 minutes
Notes: You can cut this in half if you don’t need to make a bunch of cookies for a Christmas cookie swap (like I did). If you have leftover date jam it is delicious on mini toasts with a sliver of parmesan.