the kitchen reader: memories around the holiday table

by Stacy

This month for the The Kitchen Reader book club we’re not reading a book, we’re sharing a recipe that relates to holiday memories.

I must preface this by stating for the record that I love Christmas. It’s the only holiday my family celebrates together, and we do it right. After trying to split Christmas Eve between households for a few years, we finally invited my husband’s family to join my family for our annual celebration.

It was the best decision ever.

This holiday season has been rough for me, but that just made me more determined to enjoy Christmas. When it came time to decide what food contribution we wanted to make to the buffet this year, it seemed right to make a recipe from my husband’s family to combine the family celebrations even more.

making date roll candy

Not exactly appetizing, is it? Everyone was a bit skeptical of our plate, but they were quickly converted. What exactly is this pile of …. stuff?

date roll candy

Date roll candy. It definitely falls under the Italian umbrella of “brutti ma buoni,” which is ugly but good. The recipe comes from my husband’s “nana” who used to mail my father-in-law (her son) a box of the candy every year, all the way from Louisiana. I love the simplicity of old recipes, but have fleshed out the instructions for your benefit.

My friend, Kimberly, was over when we made it. She declined a sample at first, but after we added the vanilla, she changed her mind. She left with a hunk of the candy and my promise to post the recipe soon.


Dates are practically candy to start, so adding a few more ingredients tips this over from delicious to sublime. It’s extremely sweet, so it’s best to nibble at in small amounts.

making date roll candy

The recipe is a tradition for my husband’s family, but not for mine — yet. But my favorite Christmas traditions always center around our Christmas Eve celebration, and I’m happy that our families get along so well that we can make holiday memories together.

date roll candy

Check out The Kitchen Reader blogroll for more holiday memories.

Date Roll Candy

Adapted from a family recipe

I highly recommend using a candy thermometer. You may use salted pecans, just omit salt.


  • 1.5 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk (low-fat is fine, haven’t tried with non-dairy alternatives)
  • 1 pound chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4-1/2 cup powdered sugar


  1. Combine sugar, salt, and milk in a saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (between 235-240F). Remove from heat.
  2. Add dates, pecans, and vanilla. Stir until well-mixed and stiff.
  3. Sprinkle waxed paper with powdered sugar. Transfer candy to prepared waxed paper and shape into logs 1-2 inches in diameter. Refrigerate until chilled.
  4. When chilled, use a sharp knife to slice into rounds. Store refrigerated.

date roll candy

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill December 29, 2010 at 6:39 pm

I love dates, so this sounds delicious! Sometimes the not-so-attractive things are the ones that taste the best. I hope you had a great holiday!


Alys January 5, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Fun to see this post. Thinking of you and your family this week. Drew and I were sad to miss the holidays in Minnesota this year.


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