Two for the Troops, Part Two: Date Nut Roll-ups

Date nut filled cookies are chewy and buttery.

Date nut filled cookies are chewy and buttery.

Here are cookies that went to Vietnam. Gina Doyle of Ripley sent along a recipe for a date nut-filled roll-up cookie originally named Railroad Cookie in response to Kendra Newcomb’s request for cookies to send to troops deployed in Kuwait. Gina wrote, “Many years ago my brother was stationed in Vietnam. We sent him care packages whenever we could. Sometimes a package would get waylaid and take longer to arrive than usual. Even though some food items were by then inedible, the Railroad Cookies were always still good.” She figured, she said, “If these cookies can withstand the jungles of Vietnam, they should be able to handle the desert of Kuwait.”

She found the recipe, which became a family favorite in Yankee Hill Country Cooking by Beatrice Vaughn. Since the name Railroad Cookie is not as helpfully descriptive as we might wish, I am taking the liberty of changing its name here.

One thing I noticed right away about the recipe is that it was easily divisible, and for trying it out, I cut it in half, because no one in this house needs that many cookies sitting around looking delicious, and the recipe makes a lot. I divided my half-batch into two balls, and when they were rolled up, the rolls were about two inches in diameter. The date-nut filling is a little sticky, so I decided to bake them on parchment paper, which made it very easy to do. I love parchment paper, and I recommend it highly, even if you are using no-stick pans. I reuse the paper at least for two or three pans full, and, if I think it can stand it, leave it on the baking pan for another go-round later. Cheap, cheap.

If you decide to send these abroad, you certainly can use the vacuum pack method we discussed last week. But Gina didn’t have vacuum packaging at her disposal when she sent these to her brother.

Rolled, sliced, and laid on parchment paper ready for baking.

Rolled, sliced, and laid on parchment paper ready for baking.

Date Nut Filled Roll-Up Cookies

Date Nut Filling

2 cups pitted dates, chopped very fine

½ cup sugar

½ cup water

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon butter

½ cup finely chopped walnuts

Combine the dates, sugar, and water and cook in a heavy saucepan over low heat until thick, about three minutes, stirring to prevent scorching. Add vanilla and butter. Cool and add nuts.


Cookie Dough

1 cup butter or shortening

2 cups light brown sugar, packed

2 eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

4 cups flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cream together the sugar and butter or shortening. Beat in the eggs. Sift together the soda, salt, cinnamon, and 2 cups of the four. Stir into the egg and butter mixture, then add remaining flour to make firm dough, stiff enough to handle and roll easily. Dough will be easier to handle if divided into parts before rolling. Roll out each part of dough about a half-inch thick and spread with the date nut filling. Roll up like a jelly roll. Chill well, then slice crosswise into thin slices, about a quarter inch thick. Bake on greased cookie sheets for about 15 minutes.

Makes ten dozen.

Sandy Oliver

About Sandy Oliver

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working Waterfront. Besides freelance food writing, she is a pioneering food historian beginning her work in 1971 at Mystic Seaport Museum, where she developed a fireplace cooking program in an 1830s house. After moving to Maine in 1988, Sandy wrote, Saltwater Foodways: New Englanders and Their Foods at Sea and Ashore in the 19th Century published in 1995. She is the author of The Food of Colonial and Federal America published in fall of 2005, and Giving Thanks: Thanksgiving History and Recipes from Pilgrims to Pumpkin Pie which she co-authored with Kathleen Curtin. She often speaks to historical organizations and food professional groups around the country, organizes historical dinners, and conducts classes and workshops in food history and in sustainable gardening and cooking. Sandy lives on Islesboro, an island in Penobscot where she gardens, preserves, cooks and teaches sustainable lifeways.