These used to arrive in the Christmas cookie tins, packed carefully with waxed paper and a slice of Pepperidge Farm bread to keep everything fresh. The batch I made last night tasted just like I remember.

It is a mystery as to why they are called Creoles — all the butter they use? the pecans? — but the butterscotch appellation comes from the happy melding of lots of brown sugar with lots of butter with lots of dates. According to my cousin Rebecca, the dates, cut into small bits, are not as cloying or imposing as whole dates may be. The nuts help add a no-nonsense note.

All of last night’s testers nodded sagely and took another . . . and another . . . and agreed that these were “deceptively light.” And then we went off a bit sideways and tasted the cookies with thin slices of Manchego cheese on top, thinking about how good dates and cheese can be together.

We’re looking for other opinions on that.

Butterscotch Creoles

Makes 8 to 9 dozen cookies

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups finely chopped dates (about 1 lb. of whole dates, before pitting)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1-1/4 cups firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs

In a large bowl, mix together flour, baking powder and salt. Add dates to flour mixture, using forks to separate clumps of chopped date somewhat. Add nuts.

In another large bowl, cream butter until soft; gradually beat in brown sugar, then vanilla. Add one egg at a time. Stir in flour mixture; dough will be soft. Form dough into rolls about 2 inches in diameter, using waxed paper to help you shape the rolls. Wrap waxed paper around rolls and chill dough thoroughly in the refrigerator, for a few hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut chilled rolls crosswise into 1/8-inch thick slices; place slices on ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8 minutes, until lightly browned.

Recipe and photograph copyright 2009 Garside Group LLC

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