Please welcome my dear friend, guest author Steve-Anna Stephens as she shares a favorite treat, Chinese Chews. ~Elise
Every now and then, I just have to bake something. Anything.
It’s almost always more about the baking than the eating. So, you’ll find me walking around the neighborhood, knocking on doors, and giving whatever it is away. Perhaps due to an unusually large spate of baking on my part, one of my neighbors has been passing up my offerings of sweets and homemade buttermilk biscuits, saying, “No thanks, I’m good.”
Now that’s a sad experience, having your baked goods declined.
So, when I asked the other day if he would like “some more of those date and walnut squares with powdered sugar,” and he said, “Sure,” I knew these Chinese Chews were a hit.
Chinese Chews have been a favorite in our family for years, but try as I might, I could not find the source for the recipe. A little digging revealed that the recipe for Chinese Chews first appeared in the June issue of Good Housekeeping in 1917. This version, handed down to me by my mother, varies only slightly from the recipe that was published during World War I. It includes an extra egg, calls for sifting the dry ingredients, beating the eggs well, and topping the squares with confectioners sugar (rather than forming them into balls and rolling them in granulated sugar).
What’s best about Chinese Chews is that while they are undeniably chewy, they aren’t overwhelmingly sweet. The crunchy walnuts add a nice balance to the texture, and the confectioners sugar sends a message to your mouth that they are, indeed, a dessert—not a health food bar.
There are many variations on the recipe for Chinese Chews, and perhaps just as many guesses as to why they are called Chinese Chews. There’s nothing noticeably Chinese about them, so that remains a mystery. Some versions of the recipe call for butter, brown sugar, vanilla, and even coconut. Others switch out the walnuts for pecans, and toast the nuts.
What’s your favorite way to make Chinese Chews? Please tell us in the comments. If you haven’t tried this popular, chewy dessert, you’re in for a treat. Your neighbors might like them, too!
Chinese Chews Recipe
- 3/4 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped dates
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- 3 eggs, well-beaten
- Confectioners sugar, for topping
1 Preheat oven to 300° F. Grease and flour an 8 x 12-inch pan – if you use a smaller pan, the baking time will be longer. Note: If you grease the pan, but don’t flour it, the squares will stick to the pan and be difficult to remove after baking.
2 Combine flour, sugar (not confectioners sugar), baking powder and salt. Sift with a sifter or fine mesh sieve into a medium sized mixing bowl. If you don’t have a sifter, whisk dry ingredients together well to combine.
3 Stir the dates, nuts and well-beaten eggs (I beat the eggs separately with a hand mixer for about 1 minute until fluffy before adding them), into the dry ingredients. It is not necessary to beat the eggs with a mixer, you can beat them by hand with a fork. Make sure ingredients are well combined – the batter will be sticky.
4 Spread the batter out as thinly as possible into the prepared pan.
5 Bake for 30 minutes, or until top is golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean.
6 Let cool completely, and cut into 1 to 1 1/2-inch squares. Note: Many recipes call for cutting the squares while still warm. In my experience, they are much easier to cut after they’ve cooled.
7 Sprinkle with powdered sugar, using sifter or sieve, as desired.