"Chinese Chews” appeared in the June 1917 issue of Good Housekeeping, and the recipe was widely reprinted in newspapers. The main ingredients were dates and English walnuts, along with flour, sugar, baking powder, eggs, and salt. The popularity of “Chinese Chews” has dropped, but modern versions contain coconut and chocolate chips.
The origin of the name “Chinese Chews” for a snack with dates and English walnuts is a mystery that has not been explained.
June 1917, Good Housekeeping, pg. 78, col. 3:
Chinese Chews 2600 Calories
1 cupful dates, chopped
1 cupful English walnuts, chopped
1 cupful sugar
3/4 cupful pastry flour
1 teaspoonful baking-powder
1/4 teaspoonful salt
Mix all dry ingredients together, put in the date and nuts, and stir in the eggs after beating them light. Bake in as thin a sheet as can be spread and when done cut in small squares and roll into balls. Then roll them in granulate sugar.
Mrs. L. G. Platt, North Bend, Ore.
26 June 1917, Janesville (WI) Daily Gazette, pg. 7, col. 2:
One cupful dates, chopped; one cupful English walnuts, chopped; one cupful sugar, three-quarters cupful pastry flour, one teaspoonful baking powder, two eggs, one-quarter teaspoon salt.
Mix all dry ingredients together, put in the dates and nuts, and stir i nthe eggs after beating them lightly. Bake in as thin a sheet as can be spread and when down cut in small squares and roll into balls. Then roll them in granulated sugar.
4 February 1921, Rock Valley (Iowa) Bee, “Kitchen Cabinet” by Nellie Maxwell, pg. 7, col. 3:
Chinese Chews.—Take one cupful each of dates, and walnuts, chopped, one cupful of sugar, three-fourths of a cupful of flour (pastry), one teaspoonful of baking powder, two eggs, and one-fourth of a teaspoonful of salt. Mix all the dry ingredients together; add the dates and nuts; stir in the eggs beaten well, and bake in as thin a sheet as can be spread. When done, cut in small squares and roll into balls. Roll in granulated sugar before serving.
Google News Archive
4 February 1933, St. Petersburg (FL) Evening Independent, pg. 13, col. 2:
1 cup dates, chopped; 1 cup nuts meats, chopped; 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup pastry flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 2 eggs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, vanilla.
Mix all dry ingredients together, put in dates and nuts, stir in the eggs after beating them light. Bake in as thin a sheet as can be spread and when done cut in small squares and roll into balls. Then roll them in granulated sugar.
Mrs. Grace Carrier
137 Tenth avenue north.
26 September 1947, Dallas (TX) Morning News, section 2, pg. 5:
Mix 1 1/2 pounds butter, 3/4 cup sugar and 6 cups flour together. Spread evenly on bottom of pan about 1/4 inch thick and bake. Top this with a mixture of 1 dozen well-beaten eggs, 9 cups brown sugar, 3 cups cocoanut, 4 cups chopped nuts. Bake in slow oven 300 to 350 degrees until done. Dust with powdered sugar and cut in squares. You’ll need two bakings for this recipe, but you’ll have plenty of cookies for the crowd.
Google News Archive
19 December 1947, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, pg. 27, cols. 3-4:
One cup chopped dates, 1 cup chopped walnuts, 1 cup white sugar, 3/4 cup flour, 2 eggs, 1 teaspoon baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Mix dry ingredients, add dates and nuts. Stir in well-beaten eggs. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. While wamr cut in strips and roll in powdered sugar. (Mrs. Thomas B. Haynes)
1 December 1960, Dallas (TX) Morning News, “Recipes of the Day” by Julie Benell, section 5, pg. 5:
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup chopped dates
1 cup chopped walnuts
3 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
Sift dry ingredients. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into a greased 10x14-inch pan. Bake in a slow 300-degree oven for 30 minutes. Cool and cut in squares.
July 07, 2005
The Hunt For “Chinese” Chews 1957
My mother, formerly a really terrific and imaginative cook, has given up cooking for reasons I don’t entirely understand. She has not, however, given up food , although she no longer reads cookbooks in bed, like novels, a trait she has passed on to me, and to my daughter. My mother has retained a strong interest in the food category of cookies and other things to have with your tea.
Never much of a baker herself, and not liking things too sweet, she nonetheless craves a certain sort of adult-type homemade cookie or biscuit. I try to bring her some when I come to visit and to take her out walking. She is politely grateful for my madeleines and shortbreads, and adores the gorgeously arranged, delicious cookies her grandaughter sends. But she waxes especially nostalgic about a very nice bar cookie, called “Chinese Chews” (there is nothing chinese about them, I guess they just seemed exotic in the fifties in England). She used to make them sometimes herself, from a recipe she got from her older sister, my Auntie Louie. They were always scarfed up when she served them.
(Family recipe follows—ed.)
Well done you for the research! My 1950’s Christmas memories have Chinese Chews in there and my Mum only made them at Christmas, rolled in granulated sugar. I have a huge collection of cookery books and will now hunt through to see if I can find anything before 1917. The clue seems to be “English walnuts” suggesting an English source. Was the American Good Housekeeping mag a sister publication to an English version, do you know???
The Big Apple is going into favourites!