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Yes, it's those Sugar Plums

December 20th, 2009 | 14 Comments »

Those Sugar Plums, the ones that dance in the head during the long winter slumber in the most familiar Christmas story that’s likely ever been written. How did I get to be this age, with a teenager and a husband, long gone away from treasured annual reads of that classic story each year, the retelling of Santa’s magical visit, and not have any clue what a real sugar plum entailed? I want to kick myself.

Because, I’ll tell you something, and this is no small truth. Had I known about these delightful, sweet and simple little treats prior to this past week, how easy they are to put together and how eager and surprised everyone looks when you pull out a container and say “These are Sugar Plums. Yes! THOSE Sugar Plums!” I’m telling you, it would be all I need and I’d have been cranking out these nutty fruit-filled, orange-scented orbs the moment the calendar page flipped over to the month of Christmas.

My hope now is that I don’t go so far into overkill that I never want to see a dried apricot again. The delight and flavor and simplicity of these might possibly have that effect on me. Good thing Christmas is just a few days away. It’s a bit embarrassing, really, to be so interested in food of all kinds, the history of it, the stories it can tell and not be aware of this confection. But that’s what we have friends for, isn’t it? To enlighten us? To share the wealth?

And little could be simpler than combining rough-chopped nuts and dried fruit in a food processor along with honey and orange juice and whirring it all into an utterly fragrant crush of flavor. Even the rolling of the mixture was contemplative, as the sun warmed my backside and Miles Davis kept me company with his sultry trumpet. A late afternoon of putting together a Christmas fiction and ballet classic that I know I will love for years to come left me feeling a lot more festive than I have been lately. With the addition of a fragrant tree, dragged through a snowy wood, and boxes filled with a lifetime of memories and nostalgia also added some much-needed holiday spirit to my life. If all I need to do that is a few packages of dried fruit and some bags of nuts, then holidays from now on could become much more simpler. One can only hope, anyway.

Sugar Plums

Recipe from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu; Quirk Books, 2009    (and Susan)

2 cups almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
Unsweetened flaked coconut for rolling

1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

2. Combine almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, and zest in a food processor and process into a finely ground mixture.

3. Add orange juice and honey, and combine until the mixture becomes a sticky ball.

4. Pinch off pieces of the mixture and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut. Place on the baking sheet and chill for about 1 hour until firm.

I used two cups equivalent of nuts, utilizing pistachios and pecans as well as almonds. It’s my holy trifecta of nutty favorites.  I might have used figs in place of dates, and on another go-round of this recipe, I probably will do just that along with dried cherries. The possibilities are endless for substitutions. Use raisins both black or gold, dried cranberries, currants, pineapple, mango. Other nuts like peanuts, walnuts, brazil nuts. Try it with lemon juice and zest for a different background of flavor.

I also added a teaspoon of ground nutmeg to the mix. Cinnamon and nutmeg are culinary best buds. They really get along so well together that it’s a shame to leave one out when the other is present.

I added a bit more honey and orange juice, as the amount in the recipe didn’t seem to be enough to make the mixture as sticky as it needed to hold together. Adjust it according to your taste preferences.

14 responses to “Yes, it's those Sugar Plums”

  1. Cheryl in NC says:

    Love the idea of these…and so easy too! Perfect holiday gifts I will keep in mind for next year. Thanks so much, Kate, for this and all your recipes. I’ve found some treasures here.

  2. Tasty-sounding recipe. We’d go with dried cherries, but that’s just our two cents!

  3. amelia says:

    oh how tenderly! have a merry, wonderful and white christmas!!!

  4. msgreenbean says:

    I’m right there with you! How could I have gone this long in life and not indulged in these holiday treats! I just made some the other week. Holy YUM!

  5. kms says:

    miles davis and sugar plums together? now, that sounds like a very good day. merry christmas to you and yours, kate!

  6. louise says:

    I now have visions of sugar plums dancing through my head. Thank you, Kate:) It’s just what I needed this holiday season.

    A very Merry Christmas to you and yours. I’m so glad to have “met” you. I hope you don’t mind that I’ve added your blog to my blogroll. I don’t want to miss one more morsel…

  7. Doniree says:

    Ok, for one thing – those sound AMAZING and even I could do that! And for another? The way you wove this into your story was absolutely beautiful. Now I’m craving you time AND sugar plums. Merry Christmas 🙂

  8. Darn, just used the rest of my dates for energy bars. Luckily I can always pick up some more. Consider this bookmarked!

  9. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by katenthekitchen: Yes, it’s THOSE Sugar Plums!! http://bit.ly/7v792R (new blog post)…

  10. They look yummy…..luv your snow falling by the way…..Kristin’s (MD) knee deep and we’re (MN) chipping ice…..what’s up with that? I catch the mood that you like winter…..and everything about it….I am daydreaming about Mexico….I will try and catch your vibe! 🙂 Merry Christmas! CA

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  12. I’ve always wondered what a sugar plum is. They make me think of The Nutcracker Ballet.

  13. Glenna says:

    Oh yummy!!!! I had no idea that’s what they were either but now I want to make them too! They look wonderful!!!!

  14. Chris says:

    I thought that fairies made those;)