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Looking for aunt's date brownies

Q: Can you direct me to where I can find a brownie-type recipe from the 1950s that was made with chopped dates?  It is a childhood favorite I used to make with my Aunt Anne. She is long passed away.

I think it was a Hershey recipe? I have looked at various Hershey cookbooks and the Hershey website and cannot locate anything that seems right. It was a very chocolaty, chewy  and rich and contained chopped dates.

—Cathy Stolarski, Mundelein

A: Questions like this are hard to answer. There are many recipes out there and who knows which was used by your aunt. You did offer some valuable clues: the 1950s time frame and the brand name, Hershey. I did a Google search and zeroed in on a recipe for chocolate date and nut bars in a 1971 revised edition of "Hershey's 1934 Cookbook," a promotional book created by The Hershey Co., the Hershey, Pa.-based chocolate giant.

At the same time, I also called the folks at Hershey's and asked for help. Anna Lingeris, the company's manager of Global Brand PR and Consumer Engagement, had the kitchen staff look for recipes featuring chopped dates that were published up through the 1950s. They found only two, both from "The Hershey Recipe Cookbook" of 1930.

Now you might say to me, well, these recipes are from 1930 and I enjoyed these brownies in the 1950s. That's true, but Aunt Anne had to have gotten that recipe somewhere. If you were a child of the 1950s or 1960s, she might have been a kid or a young adult in the 1930s when the recipes were published. Also, the recipes were reprinted over the years, including the 1934 book and its revisions, so your aunt might have found them in a later Hershey's book.

Lingeris wanted me to note neither recipe has been kitchen tested since 1992. Give both of them a try, then start tweaking proportions and ingredients to get it as close as your memory remembers. Your Aunt Anne probably did made similar adjustments to whatever recipe she used. We all do that with beloved recipes—we jigger amounts, streamline steps, add little flourishes to make them our own. Let me know how it goes.

I've left the Hershey brand names in these recipes but you can, of course, experiment with other chocolate products out there.

One thing to keep in mind with future searches is how you word your search online. Neither recipe from Hershey's has a title with the word "brownie" in it. No wonder you couldn't find them. Sometimes you need to search by ingredients and, in this case, a brand name like Hershey, to get results.

Hershey's chocolate date and nut bars

Makes: 2 dozen bars

2 eggs

1/2 cup each: granulated sugar; sifted flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

6 tablespoons Hershey's chocolate flavored syrup

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup each: chopped walnuts, chopped dates

Powdered sugar (garnish)

1.Beat eggs in medium bowl. Gradually add granulated sugar, beating until well blended. Stir together flour and baking powder; add to egg mixture, beating until blended. Add syrup and vanilla; beat until blended. Stir in dates and walnuts. Spread batter into a greased, 9-inch square baking pan.

2. Bake 40 minutes in a 350-degree oven or until edges are firm. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars. Sprinkle powdered sugar over top.

Hershey's chocolate robins

Makes: About 16 squares

4 sections (1/2 ounce each) Hershey's Unsweetened Chocolate Baking Bar, broken into pieces

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

3 eggs

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1/2 teaspoon each: baking powder, salt

Dash ground cinnamon

3/4 cup chopped nuts

1/4 cup chopped dates or raisins

1.Melt chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over low heat; cool slightly. In small bowl, beat eggs and sugar until well blended. Add chocolate mixture; beat well. Stir together flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon; add to butter mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in nuts and dates. Spread batter into a greased 9-inch square baking pan.

2.Bake 25 minutes in a 350-degree oven until edges are set. Cool completely in pan on wire rack. Cut into squares.

Do you have a question about food or drink? E-mail Bill Daley at: wdaley@tribune.com. Snail mail inquiries should be sent to: Bill Daley, Chicago Tribune, 435 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago 60611. Twitter @billdaley.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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