We're not sure how many of you know that the real, original Grandma Coco was our very own paternal grandmother. She was a talented seamstress and, in fact, provided for her family of 4 kids during the dark days of the depression entirely by her needlework skills. She was also a fabulous cook!! There are so many stories we could recount on the subject of her cooking. She was a legend. At least within the family.
We remember maple walnut layer cake and chili sauce and icicle pickles!! And bread!!! She baked the best bread. Irish potato bread. Grandma Coco had one little quirk. A tiny one, really. Almost insignificant.
When asked for her recipe, she gave it to you ... sort of. That is to say, it was sometimes difficult to duplicate her recipes. We've never been sure if she did this intentionally or if she just had a basic recipe (the one she wrote down and handed to you) and she riffed on it when she actually cooked it, the way a jazz musician improvises on the fly.
So, because a couple of you, dear readers, have asked, here is our recipe for Date Sandwich Cookies and we're trying really hard to give you the real deal. We started with the cookie recipe we shared a while ago. Click on the link to find it again: http://grandmacocosdesigns.blogspot.ca/2012/02/best-cookie-recipe-ever.html It's a very versatile cookie recipe that we recently found. It's not a family heirloom ... at least not yet.
We rolled the cookies out thinly this time and cut them with our mother's old round cookie cutter. We baked them as usual. While they cooled, we made the date filling.
Date filling is a mystery to us. We've seen lots of recipes, even old ones, that add sugar and we've never been sure why you'd do that. Dates are so sweet all on their own. We just chop up some dates to break them up a bit. How many, you ask? Well, OK. A handful. We put them in a small saucepan and just barely cover them with fresh water. Add a pinch of salt, if you like, and turn the heat on. Simmer them (being careful to stir the mixture so it doesn't scorch) until the excess water has evaporated and it's the consistency of jam. That's it. Let the date filling cool a bit and then spread a little between 2 thin Brown Sugar Oatmeal Shortbread Cookies. That's it! Simple. Simple.
Our mother-in-law made a very nice spiral cookie with date filling in it. We must hunt for that recipe. It was one she made for Christmas. A rolled-up log of cookie dough with date filling, chilled in the fridge and then sliced and baked. The cookies which inspired our sandwich cookie were made years ago by a bakery in Kingston, Ontario that is no more. A large-ish round oatmeal cookie folded over a dollop of date filling and then baked. Oats and dates. Yum! And of course, now that we think about it, what's a Date Square if not that? Did you know that the Date Square we know and love is known in Western Canada as Matrimonial Cake? How cool is that? The history of cooking is a fascinating subject all on its own.