Party Perfect Walnut Date Cupsfeatured

These fancy little walnut date cups are the perfect savory-sweet treat for a special holiday brunch or cocktail party. It’s a prettier take on one of my favorite easy appetizers, a nut and blue cheese-stuffed date wrapped in bacon and broiled until crispy and caramelized.

For this dressed up version, the walnut and dates are ground together and combined to form the heart of this delightful bite. The mellow, nutty flavor of the walnuts is brought out by the natural sweetness of the dates, and the orange adds a bright, floral note to the mix. The blue cheese is just pungent enough to bring some depth to the flavors, the candied bacon is pure indulgence, and the phyllo cup is a crispy, edible vessel for it all!

Woo woo! Extra bonus, this recipe/video we made won the Video category in California Walnuts’ Holiday Baking Challenge!!! Thanks, Walnuts :) And extra thanks, Hua, for your videography skills.

I did have some trouble getting the candied bacon as crispy as I wanted it (I was shooting for a brittle texture that I could snap into shards). Any consummate bacon confectioners out there who can shed some light?

Crispy Nutty Date Cups meet Candied Bacon

Crispy Nutty Date Cups meet Candied Bacon

Walnut Date Cups with Blue Cheese and Candied Bacon

Servings: 24 pieces

Ingredients:
1 cup walnuts, toasted
12 ounces Medjool dates, pitted
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
4 (18”x12”) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed and brought to room temperature
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
½ cup blue cheese, crumbled (Recommended: Point Reyes original blue)
Candied Bacon

Special Equipment:
24-count mini muffin pan
2 baking sheets
Microplane or grater
Parchment paper

Preparation:
1. Make Candied Bacon (see recipe below) and set aside to cool.
2. Place an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375 degrees F.
3. In a food processor, pulse together the walnuts, dates, orange zest, and orange juice until a coarse, nutty spread is formed. I prefer my filling on the chunky side, but evenly combined.
4. Place a sheet of phyllo dough on a work surface. Brush the dough with melted butter. Place another sheet of dough on top and brush with melted butter. Repeat until you have 4 sheets of dough stacked.
5. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 24 (3-inch) square pieces.
6. Gently press each piece of dough into the muffin pan. Spoon the walnut and date filling into the cups.
7. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the pastry is golden. Remove from the oven and let the phyllo cups cool for 10 minutes.
8. Using a small spoon, remove the phyllo cups from the pan. Arrange the cups on a platter, top each one with a little blue cheese and garnish with a piece of candied bacon. Serve immediately.

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Candied Bacon
Recipe adapted from Alex Guarnaschelli

Ingredients:
3 slices bacon, about 1/4-inch thick (or more, for fun)
1/4 cup brown sugar

Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
2. Sprinkle the bacon with the brown sugar, coating both sides.
3. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and arrange the bacon in a single layer on top. Place a second piece of parchment paper on top, and cover with another baking sheet. The baking sheet will keep the bacon from curling up as it cooks.
4. Place the tray in the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes. If it is not golden brown and crispy, bake it for another 10 to 15 minutes.
5. Transfer the bacon to a wire rack (not paper towels because the sugar will make it stick) and let it harden up a bit more. Break each strip into small shards. Set aside for garnishing.

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