Best Date & Pecan Rolls

Best Sugar-Free Candy Winner - 2022 State Fair of Texas

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Close Up Best Date & Pecan Rolls
As a 2022 State Fair of Texas “Best Sugar-Free Candy” winner, these “Best Date & Pecan Rolls” truly earned their title. They’re sweetened with dried dates and Splenda’s zero-calorie granulated sweetener. Orange zest and vanilla extract give them a wonderful aroma and flavor you will absolutely savor.
This recipe comes from the kitchen of Donna Wyse-Hill.
Donna Wyes-Hill
Donna has won a countless number times at her local fair, the State Fair of Texas, which happens to be the largest fair in the United States, based on total attendance numbers.

Winner Q&A

We recently caught up with Donna for a Q&A and learned a bit more about this top blue ribbon baker:

BRG:  Best Date & Pecan Rolls. What can you tell me about this winning recipe and why you chose it?

Donna:  I have really come to love dates and figs. And in Texas, PECANS are king.  I try not to eat sugar, so Splenda worked great. I never choose someone’s recipe without making it my own and making tweaks.

BRG:  What do you think your secret to winning was?

Donna:  My nut roll was different.  First, I competed with a sugar free against real sugar entries.  Most of the other entries were white. Mine was brown.

BRG:  Do you have any helpful tips for someone making it on their own?

Donna:  Don’t be afraid of using a candy thermometer.  If the first attempt fails, keep trying. It is science.


Donna’s First Baking Contest Was in 1983

BRG:  How long have you been baking and competing at the fair?

Donna:  About 20 years.  I started in 1983 and competed about 15 years and took a break.  Came back with canning a few years ago.

BRG:  What has been your biggest win in baking competitions?

Donna:  In the brownie bakeoff I won first place in both brownie and blondie so basically I competed against myself for best of show.  I won!

BRG:  How many ribbons do you have?

Donna:  Hundreds.  I never counted them.

BRG:  What did you like about baking with Splenda?

Donna:  My brother is diabetic.  I do keto. We can all enjoy the same dessert.  Both my parents were diabetic too.  I love it when I change people’s mind that think a dessert with Splenda won’t taste as good.

BRG:  What do you do for work?

Donna:  I work in a Family Office. Accounting and general office.  I am in my 33rd year with them.

BRG:  Any hobbies besides baking?

Donna:  I love cooking as much as baking.  I have won some big awards and prizes with savory dishes.  $10k from a national Campbell’s Soup recipe contest and other great wins as well. I love to travel.  Have been to 6 continents and lots of cruises.  I am a huge sports fan too.

Best Date & Pecan Rolls - lined up in a row

Pro Tip for Preparing This Recipe

If you make these best date & pecan rolls–and we highly recommend you do–consider the butter you’re using. Increase the amount (to 1 cup) if you are using a European butter like Kerrygold or Plugra. They are two of Donna’s favorite brands and what she used for her winning entry.




Date & Pecan Rolls (Best Sugar-Free Candy, 2022 State Fair of Texas)

3 cups Splenda granulated sweetener
3/4 cups milk
3/4 butter, divided
10 oz. dried dates, chopped
1 teaspoon orange zest
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups chopped pecans, lightly toasted, divided
Line a large baking sheet (13×18-inch) with parchment paper, set aside.
Combine Splenda, milk and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add dates, stirring constantly. Cook until temperature reaches 235 F.
Add remaining1/4 cup of butter, orange zest and vanilla. Heat until it starts to thicken, then stir in 1 cup chopped pecans.
Spread onto lined baking sheet. Carefully and evenly spread out and smooth out top. An offset spatula works well for this. Cool slightly.
Make 3 cuts (one lengthwise, 2 width-wise), making 6 equal portions. Lengthwise, roll and shape each into a roll/log and smooth their edges. Roll in chopped pecans. Chill then slice to serve.

Makes 60 slices.


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