Have you ever heard of Chinese Chews? They’re absolutely delicious date-nut bars that were first published in the June 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping. They’re not from China at all, and some believe the name came from dates being considered an exotic ingredient. My mother-in-law (the grandchildren call her “Nanna,” pronounced “Nahn-Nah”) made these for years, and they’re one of my hubby’s favorites. I just had to get Nanna’s Chinese Chews recipe to share with you before the holidays.
First, I have to admit that my hubby used to ask me to make these during the early years of our marriage, and it’s taken me decades to get around to it. In my defense….yeah, I’ve got nothing. I’m kicking myself though, because these bars are so outstanding and relatively easy. I can’t walk by the cookie container without slicing off a couple of bites. Think of buttery, chewy blondies with dates and walnuts, dusted in confectioners sugar…yum!
Second, I have to tell you how we were just cracking up at my mother-in-law’s yellowed, handwritten recipe for “Chinice Shews.” Nanna, who is from Italy, had done her best in about 1970 to write down the recipe in English as it was told to her by a lady she knew. My brother-in-law texted me a photo and called to read the recipe in a heavy Italian accent, as my mother-in-law howled with laughter in the background. Priceless!
Interestingly, Nanna’s Chinese Chews include melted butter, while the 1917 version contained no butter or shortening. Another thing I noticed, which I thought was odd — there’s no baking powder or baking soda in my mother-in-law’s recipe. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it works. (I was determined to make the bars as written and not futz with a legend!) My only changes were to increase the baking time, since mine needed it, and to recommend lining the pan with parchment paper folded over the edges, to make for easy removal and cleanup. I also included some ways to make the preparation easier.
P.S. Happy Hanukkah to anyone celebrating!
(Recipe Source: Barely adapted from my mother-in-law, who got the recipe in perhaps 1970 from a lady who passed away many years ago. The original Chinese Chews recipe was published in the June 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping.)