Ritz cracker cookies are humble and homely, but always a hit. And aren't those always the best sort of treats?
1/2 cup walnuts
1 cup dried dates
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 to 1/2 pound Ritz crackers (1 to 2 sleeves of crackers)
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Heat the oven to 350°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Place the walnuts in the bowl of a small food processor or chopper and blitz them for about 15 seconds, or until ground until small pieces — not into dust or a paste. Add the dates, 1/4 cup at a time, and continue blending until the mixture is finely chopped. (See photo above for reference.)
(Note: You can do this without a food processor, but it will be more time-consuming. Chop the dates by hand until they are very fine, pieces no more than 1/8-inch to a side. Finely chop the walnut as well.)
Place the chopped walnuts and dates into a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan and pour the sweetened condensed over them. Stir thoroughly, then turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the mixture from scorching. Heat until it comes to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the mixture darkens slightly and pulls away from the sides of the pan. (Refer to photo above; it will no longer be liquid. It will be a thick, gooey, sticky mixture.)
Turn off the heat. Use a small spatula or spoon to spread the mixture on the crackers. Personal taste should dictate how much you spread on each cracker. My grandmother places just a dab on each cracker; my mother and I use a heaping mound. Up to you! It won't affect the baking time.
When the crackers are covered, bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the crackers are just slightly more golden brown around the edges. Remove from the oven and place the baking sheet on a cooling rack. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet.
To make the glaze, place the 1/2 cup powdered sugar in a large glass measuring cup. Whisk in the cinnamon. Add the milk a little at a time, whisking vigorously. Whisk in the vanilla, and continue whisking until no lumps remain.
Drizzle this glaze over the cooled cookies, and let them stand for another few minutes to let the glaze firm up.
These keep very well in a covered container. They also can be frozen in a well-sealed container for up to a month. For this reason they are one of my family's favorite make-ahead party sweets.
(Images: Faith Durand)