Walnut and Date Cookies Recipe

You may remember from my posts about the quince and almond cake and the quince jelly that I have a friend with a house in the country and a generous disposition.

On a Sunday night a couple of weeks ago, she was driving back to Paris after spending a weekend there, and she announced she had more quinces and also some walnuts for me. The bag is quite heavy, she said, did I want her to drop them off? That would be perfect, I replied, and we agreed to meet in a spot that wouldn’t take her too far out of her way, and where she could double-park for a minute without incurring the wrath of other drivers.

Still, we had to be quick: she pulled the bag she had prepared for me out of the passenger’s seat and plopped it on the sidewalk. It’s heavy, she repeated, is it going to be okay? I lifted the bag. Oof, it was heavy — a large canvas bag filled with about twelve kilos of in-shell walnuts and maybe six of quinces — but it didn’t feel impossible to carry. You know, I do yoga, and I beat my egg whites by hand, that sort of thing. I assured her I would be fine and thanked her before she drove away.

Crunchy on the rims and tender in the middle, these cookies are altogether satisfying on a dark fall afternoon, when it feels like the sky has dropped several floors.

And now it was just me and the bulging bag, a few blocks — uphill blocks, naturally — from my apartment. It was quite late, the bag was heavier with every step, the handles coarser on my bare palms, and as I stopped and started, shifting the weight onto one leg or the other, I also had more of an audience that I would have preferred. (Have you noticed how much harder hard things seem when someone is watching mirthfully?)

But I made it home with both arms still plugged into their shoulder sockets, and now I get to doubly enjoy this incredible profusion of fresh walnuts.

I have given some to neighbors and visiting friends, and we’ve been working our way through the rest of them with dedication — eating them straight, on their own or with fruit and cheese, in grated carrot salads, sprinkled on Hokkaido squash soups, slipped into pizzas and gratins, whizzed to make dips and spreads, added to granola… Walnuts are said to be the ultimate brain food, and if that is the case, I fully expect to be on a Nobel prize shortlist sometime soon.

I’m not sure if the selection jury will think this is relevant, but I have become pretty good at shelling walnuts in a speedy fashion, and my technique is a simple but efficient self-taylorization of the process: I start by cracking all the walnuts (crack crack crack), then I pry all the shells open to extract the nugget of walnut meat (pry pry pry), and finally I split the walnut halves delicately to remove the bark-like partition in the middle (split split split).

In addition to the uses listed above, I have also been baking with them, as for these wholesome cookies, chunky with walnuts and dates.

The recipe is based on one for chocolate and orange cookies published by Nolwenn in the very good L’Atelier Bio cookbook, and written up praisingly by Clea some months ago.

I’ve taken Nolwenn’s basic recipe, which happens to be dairy-free and gluten-free, and played with it: I’ve replaced the chocolate chips and candied orange rind with walnuts and diced date paste, I’ve added soaked flax seeds as a binding agent, substituted rolled spelt for the rolled quinoa (which means they’re no longer gluten-free), added some roasted grain “coffee” as a spice to amp up the flavor of the walnuts and dates, and sprinkled salt flakes on each cookie, which provides delicious salty jolts when you eat them.

These cookies bake into a wonderful texture, crunchy on the rims, tender in the middle, and altogether satisfying on a dark fall afternoon, when it feels like the sky has dropped several floors.

Walnut and Date Cookies Recipe

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 40 minutes

Makes about 15 cookies.

Walnut and Date Cookies Recipe

Ingredients

  • 15 grams (2 tablespoons) flax seeds
  • 140 grams (5 ounces, about 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) brown rice flour
  • 80 grams (3/4 cup) rolled spelt (or other rolled grain, such as quinoa or oats)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon roasted grain coffee (or instant coffee powder)
  • 50 grams (1/4 cup) unrefined light cane sugar
  • 30 grams (2 tablespoons) rapadura sugar
  • 90 grams (3 ounces, about 3/4 cup) walnut halves, roughly chopped
  • 60 grams (2 ounces) date paste, finely diced
  • 60 ml (1/4 cup) vegetable oil
  • 80 ml (1/3 cup) oat milk (or other milk)
  • salt flakes

Instructions

  1. Place the flax seeds in a small bowl, add 2 tablespoons water and let stand for 30 minutes, until the mixture has gelled.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C (360°F) and line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, rolled spelt, baking powder, coffee, sugars, walnuts and date paste.
  4. Add the flax seeds, oil, and milk, and stir them in until the dough comes together. It should be moist enough that you can shape cookies with it, but not so moist as to be gooey. Add a little milk or flour if necessary to adjust the consistency.
  5. Scoop out pieces of dough, about the size of a golf ball, and shape into slightly flattened cookies. Arrange on the prepared baking sheet, giving them a little room to expand. Sprinkle the tops with a little salt.
  6. Bake for 20 minutes, until set and golden brown. Let cool on the baking sheet.
  7. The cookies taste a little better on the day they're baked, but they also keep well for a few days in an airtight container.
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  • http://www.gamereviewwiki.com/bikinibirthday Samantha Angela @ Bikini Birthday

    I LOVE walnuts and dates and am always on the lookout for a good cookie recipe. Thanks!

    I recently made some delicious Lebanese cookies with a walnut filling. They can be made with dates too.

  • http://www.howsweeteats.com Jessica @ How Sweet

    I love nuts and dates together. These cookies sound delicious.

  • http://odwink.blogspot.com/ HPD

    was just on my way to Sunflower Market for dates …

  • http://www.healthycultivations.com Michele @ Healthy Cultivations

    I look forward to making this recipe this holiday season. Dates are a relatively new ingredient to me (fell in love with them after starting to eat Larabars), and now I love them!

  • http://wildeinthekitchen.blogspot.com Vicki @ Wilde in the Kitchen

    Those are some great looking cookies. And I loved your story as well! My eyes are always bigger than my arms too :)

  • http://www.zomppa.com Belinda @zomppa

    If you want to send some my way, I’ll be happy to lug them home.

  • http://www.aplumbyanyothername.blogspot.com A Plum By Any Other Name

    Even though it’s way more work there is something decidedly satisfying about cracking walnuts by hand. I love this time of year for that very reason. My grandmother always had nuts in need of a good cracking during the holidays.

    Thinking this recipe would also be fabulous with prunes (naturally) and chocolate. Thanks for posting!

  • http://blog.muffinegg.com Rachel

    What a workout but it sounds like the reward was totally worth the pain.
    These cookies sound and look delicious. I love walnuts and dates together!

  • http://croquecamille.wordpress.com Camille

    Ah, yes, but HOW do you crack the nuts? Do you have a nutcracker? Do you use a hammer or mallet? The pure strength of your bare hands? I ask because we get walnuts in our CSA from time to time, and have yet been unable to find a good nutcracker here in Paris.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      I have a very old walnut cracker that came from Maxence’s grandparents’ country house. It’s exactly this model, called “Le Cascoc”, and it works well for both walnuts and hazelnuts. I recommend it!

  • http://www.dallemieparti.net barbylucedistelle

    OMG, those look so yummy!! Do you write all your posts both in English and in French?? It’s such a lot of work!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Yes, I do! :)

  • Fiona

    “You know, I do yoga, and I beat my egg whites by hand, that sort of thing.”
    Oh, this thought is so familiar… I find myself reasoning this way too :-)

  • http://www.buttercupdays.wordpress.com Liana @ femme fraiche

    I love dates in sweet and salty recipes equally! Great story…the things we do for food…so worth it in the end:)

  • http://rubytuesdayfashionanddesign.blogspot.com/ Karen

    The cookies look delicious!! My sister and I are planning on doing some christmas baking this weekend so hopefully our turn out looking as good as yours!!

    Cheers,
    Karen

  • http://food-hound.blogspot.com The Food Hound

    These look delicious!! Anything with dates! We have an abundance of pecans in the south, and I’m sure they would work beautifully in this recipe, too. Bien fait!

  • Eva

    I really love that you just posted this entry today as I made walnut and date pumpkin drop cookies just two nights ago. It’s definitely the season for walnuts and dates!

  • http://frenchletters.wordpress.com Abra Bennett

    Those look delicious! Another lovely thing to do with a pile of fresh walnuts is to make aillade. I’m just about to make some myself, in fact.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Your aillade sounds wonderful, Abra, thanks for the recipe recommendation!

  • http://www.wheelerandcompany.com Elizabeth Wheeler

    I love walnuts in just about everything, salads, brownies, cookies, the fresher the better. After a long time shelling them in Berlin for my children, my tried and tested method is to insert the tip of a sharp knife into the soft joint at the top and with one sharp twist, hey presto it cracks cleanly in half, leaving only two bits of shell and no mess. The central partition as you call it (I am laughing at your succinct description of it)just pulls straight out. The de-shelling of walnuts has been a cause of great debate in our house with my husband insisting that you can crack them between the heels of your hands, what he does not consider is the mess that he leaves!
    Lovely post, I am off in the hunt for some walnuts as fresh as yours, although in Ireland I think I will have some difficulty!

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      That’s an intriguing technique, Elizabeth, I’ll give it a try for sure! I admit my method sometimes sends little bits of shell flying this way and that, and I only find them again when I step on them and they cling to my socks. :)

  • http://www.cleacuisine.fr Clea

    Moi aussi je trouve que cette recette de base est une merveille à détourner. Ca marche à tous les coups ! Ta version est un must-have.

  • http://lacaffettierarosa.wordpress.com Caffettiera

    Such a funny post! I might have seen myself carring the huge bag and struggling like you did. What usually happens to me is that the bag at some point breaks and…

    Anyway good, fresh walnuts are well worth the effort, aren’t they? I’ll add you recipe to my ‘cookies I want to try for Christmas’ endless list.

  • http://sasasunakku.com Sasa

    I’ve also been given a large bag of walnuts and am grateful for the technique, I am, let’s say, one of life’s less patient people and I haven’t been particularly successful in extracting my prize in one piece (more like 20, heh) which is ok for cakes but not so good for decoration.

  • http://abananaplease.blogspot.com Tian

    Hi Clotide,

    On Clea’s website, for amount of oil, it says “4 c. à soupe”. Is that 4 tablespoons? What does “c.” stand for?

    Thanks hepas

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      C. à soupe = Cuiller à soupe = tablespoon.

  • http://happyhealthpad.com elpi

    I love the combination. .Like nuts, anything about it!I think it’s downright good

  • Rachel

    Uh oh… I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t do any more baking until I’ve got a big deadline out of the way, but this recipe is sorely testing my resolve!

    I’ve never seen date paste where I live, but the farmer’s market boasts three different date stalls. Should I just substitute the same weight of chopped dates (presumably one of the firmer varieties) for the paste?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Well, one could argue that all those walnuts would help your brain perform better as you strive to meet said deadline. :)

      And wow, three stalls devoted to dates? (Sigh.) Date paste is available from natural or Middle-Eastern foods stores here, and it ends up costing considerably less than buying whole dates, but you can certainly substitute them using the same weight and, as you suggest, some of the firmer varieties.

      • Rachel

        I did manage to hold off trying these until I’d gotten the deadline out of the way and it was worth the wait! I made a couple of modifications which I liked enough to share: I swapped out one tbsp vegetable oil for walnut oil, and subbed 1/4 tsp cardamom for the coffee powder. They’re excellent, and I can tell I’ll be making them again in the not-too-distant future. :)

        • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

          I’m glad your deadline is out of the way! :) And thanks for reporting back with your modifications — the cardamom must have worked really well.

  • http://enchantedfig.blogspot.com/ Amanda

    These look and sound absolutely amazing. I have little need for conjuring my own vegan recipes, but I will gladly use one of yours! And, wow, the effort we allow for good food, especially free or gifted good food. So fun. Thanks for the story.

  • http://www.chopsizzlepop.com Carole

    This recipe looks AMAZING. I dabbled with a gluten-free diet for a year after visiting an anti-gluten alternative doc. I would have given my pinky toe for this recipe that year (assuming you keep the quinoa). I especially love the addition of the salt flakes. This recipe is going in my recipe box for my gluten eating and gluten-free eating moods:)

    And I love your choice of words for your spam filter!

  • http://andbabycakesthree.blogspot.com/ Nicole

    These sound delicious and I’m sure I would eat way too many of them. I love the way you describe shelling the walnuts (pry, pry, pry). Reminds me of a new book I bought my baby called “La tractopelle” (we speak French with him) is says “creuse, creuse, creuse” and “debarasse, debarasse, debarasse” for the camion a benne. Anyway, random, but it just shows how much we like to read about trucks and diggers when we are not baking cakes.

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Thanks for the children’s book recommendation, Nicole — is it La Tractopelle d’Axel?

  • http://limecake.net LimeCake

    i love that these don’t require creaming of butter. they look thick and chunky – just the way I like ‘em!

  • http://www.fromsingletomarried.com Tabitha (From Single to Married)

    mmmm…. loving these cookies! Of course anything with walnuts in them is okay by me!

  • http://www.tasteofbeirut.com tasteofbeirut

    We had bags and bags of walnuts too this late summer and I was scrambling trying to use them; finally gave a bunch of them. Wish I had this recipe then! Looks good!

  • http://www.laviecevenole.blogspot.com Tammy

    These look quite satisfying, and the recipe is wonderfully leavened–as always–by the story behind it! I dislike being watched under these sorts of circumstances, too…I also like all the whole grains being used. Very little, nit-picky note: perhaps you meant roasted ‘ground’ coffee instead of ‘grain’?

    • http://chocolateandzucchini.com clotilde

      Roasted grain “coffee” is a coffee substitute made from roasted grains — the one I use, which is linked to in the post, is made by a Swiss company and can be found in organic stores in France.

  • http://triplemaxtons.blogspot.com/ Kirsten

    Oh wow, this looks super yummy. I have had a tough time baking bread bc our apt is so cold it doesn’t rise very well. But your loaf would look amazing served with the table setting I just posted about!

    ~Kirsten

  • Liza

    Thank you for such a wonderful recipe, Clotilde! My house smells of cookies and this delicious batch is already almost gone!

  • http://moonswordschamber.blogspot.com/ nik

    Many thanks for a superdelicious recipe, from a very happy vegan! As much as I enjoy shelling walnuts…no really, I like doing it, it reminds me of doing it with Papa when I was a child…I’ve got pistachios on hand so I’ll be subbing them in instead.
    Have a sunnywonderful day!

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