Growing up, the holidays meant there were a lot of cookies in my mother’s house. She’s a great baker (her pies are awesome) and there was no lack of sugar cookies, kiss cookies, magic bars, peanut butter oatmeal no-bakes, chocolate chip cookies, apple and pumpkin pies, friendship bread, and more at Christmas. I don’t know how she did it all!
Edible Christmas Balls – I had no idea there was such a thing until I was an adult. Actually, probably not until the internet and SNL’s NPR skit “Schweddy Balls.” (Mom, if you are reading this, do NOT Google that.) Anyhow, leave it to me to walk away from the skit thinking: You mean there are other kinds of Christmas ball desserts?
But, I digress. In my mother’s house, the Christmas balls were rich Coconut Date Balls – the sticky, sweet treats that were only made at Christmastime.
When I was a child, of course I would always gravitate towards the iced sugar cookies and warm chocolate chip cookies (and the frozen chocolate chip cookies – sorry, Mom, you couldn’t hide them on us).
But, there was something about the “coconut balls.” They were rich and special. Their appearance meant it was Christmastime. I’d have one here and there… My youthful taste buds still sought out the other cookies first, but it wasn’t really Christmas without “Mom’s famous coconut balls.”
Fast forward a handful of years into my 20s – I remember one holiday I decided to make a batch to mail to my brother for Christmas because he loved them and he was a bit homesick.
Don’t worry, I provide a full recipe below with better instructions and less typos! 😀
Anyhow, it was then I learned that the recipe was easy to make, yet very, very sticky. I had date mixture up to my elbows! I swore I’d never make them again. I tend to be a bit dramatic when covered with sticky date mixtures. 😉
In fact, I just made this batch yesterday and have popped about 30 into the mail to my brother and his son. (Merry Early Christmas, Richie!)
But, I got better at limiting the stickiness to my hands. Kind of. 😉
My advice? Mise en place. (French culinary phrase which means “putting in place” or “everything in its place.”) in other words, have everything chopped, measured, spread out, available, and ready before you need to start rolling the sticky mixture into balls!
Like this – 3 cups of Rice Krispies, 1 cup of chopped walnuts. NOTE: there are nuts in this recipe!
While you must stir the ingredients, you will also need to get your hands in there!
I find that a fork works will for stirring up everything. You definitely should do this in a big pot. Easier to stir and helps the mixture cool more quickly.
I use a 5-quart pot much like this one below. Works great!
Tip: put down some parchment paper and spread out the coconut before starting to roll the balls. Makes clean up easier, too.
Ah, so pretty lined up!
You can eat them right away, but I think they are better if you let them set. I tend to keep in the fridge. I like them cold. But you can absolutely serve them at room temperature.
Makes 40 To 45
Depending on the size of the balls, you can easily have 40 to 45. I would recommend rolling on the smaller side as they are pretty rich. Aim for 1 inch balls.
Here’s the recipe.
- 1 stick unsalted butter (the original recipe called for a stick of oleo!)
- 1 pound pitted dates, cut up/diced (you can buy two 8 oz. bags of California pitted dates then dice them)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 egg
- 3 cups Rice Krispies
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (you can by a bag of chopped walnuts to make it easier)
- 1 small bag sweetened coconut flakes (a little goes a long way)
- Parchment paper (optional, but cuts down on mess)
- You will need a large pot in which you can heat the first set of ingredients on the stove.
- Put the 1 stick of unsalted butter into the pot.
- Dice / chop the 1 pound of pitted dates. Add to pot.
- Add 1 cup of white sugar to the pot.
- Break 1 egg into the pot. Scramble the raw egg a bit to spread it around.
- Take the pot and put it on the stove and set burner to low to medium heat.
- Start stirring these first ingredients together (wooden spoon works well) - you want the butter to be completely melted and the mixture gooey and heated through, but you do NOT want it bubbling, boiling, or hot. Just make sure it's well heated through.
- Stir often.
- When thoroughly heated through, remove from heat and set aside. You want this to cool so that you can handle it easily with your hands.
- Chop the walnuts if not already chopped - you need a cup of chopped walnuts.
- Spread out your parchment paper and start with about a cup of flaked coconut - spread it around on the paper. You will be rolling the balls to cover them with the coconut flakes.
- When the mixture has cooled enough, add 1 cup of chopped walnuts to the pot.
- Add 3 cups of Rice Krispies to the pot.
- Stir and stir until everything is well mixed. Sometimes I use a fork here to stir.
- Before rolling the balls, set out a container, another sheet of parchment paper, or a large plate. You will need to have a place to set the completed balls.
- Ready to get sticky and messy hands? Use your hands and grab some of the sticky mixture and start rolling it into balls. Smaller balls will be easier to manage. Aim for 1 inch balls.
- Once you have rolled the ball, set in the flaked coconut. Tip: Roll about 6 to 8 balls, set in the coconut, then roll when you have a bunch to roll through the coconut. Just seems easier.
- Once the ball is covered with the flaked coconut, set it aside on a plate or your parchment paper.
- Again, you will likely get 40 - 45 balls. Once done, I recommend chilling in the fridge a bit. I think it helps them set some, but you can also eat right away if you prefer.
- Serve them chilled or and room temperature.
- Usually will take me an hour from start to finish with this recipe, not including clean up. Sometimes longer. Happy Holidays!
Cute vintage cookie jar, yes?
What holiday treats are you making, baking, cooking up?
Tell us in a comment below! 😀