Everything Sweet and Delectable and Lovely
“The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads;”
Haven’t you always wondered what those children were seeing? Sugar plums must be something most wonderful, but what are they (and, as I love to cook, how do I make them)? The best I’ve ascertained is that their visions were of “comfits”—sugared seeds such as coriander or caraway and possibly of fruit.
For me, an enhanced understanding of these visions comes from Samira Kawash of The Atlantic. As she pondered why the Sugar Plum Fairy (instead of Chocolate, Marzipan or Candy Cane) rules the Land of Sweets in the absence of the Prince, she realized that “in Tchaikovsky’s day, sugar plum was both the name of a particular candy and the universal signifier [of] everything sweet and delectable and lovely.”
Over time, sugar plums became a confection of dried fruit, nuts and spice much like the recipe I share with you today.
‘Tis the Week before Christmas
. . . and now’s a great time to prepare your own sugar plums. If you make them today, your sugar plums will be even more delicious for the night before Christmas as they improve in flavor as they “age.”
Sugar Plums travel well and are excellent holiday gifts. If you are looking for a last-minute made-from-your-own-kitchen gift, sugar plums are perfect: they are very quick, easy and fun to make, delicious and healthful, gluten-free, vegan and raw (if you don’t toast the nuts and use a different sweetener) and truly “a signifier of everything sweet, delectable and lovely.”
Inspired and adapted from a recipe from my friend Maribeth Goodman
Makes about 70 Sugar Plums
2 cups almonds or walnuts
1 cup dried apples, packed
1 cup dried apricots, packed
1 cup pitted Medjool dates, packed
2 tablespoons honey
1 ½ tablespoons fresh orange juice
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ cup shredded coconut
½ cup organic sugar
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the almonds or walnuts in a single layer on a baking pan and bake for 6 minutes, until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool.
Place the fruit and dates into the bowl of a food processor. Then add the honey, zest and juice and spices. Process using the pulse button until very coarsely chopped. Add the cooled, toasted nuts. Continue to process using the pulse button until all is finely chopped and well blended.
Form rounded teaspoon-sized balls of the mixture. Drop the balls into either the bowl with the sugar or the bowl with the coconut. Roll the balls around to coat them completely. Place the sugar plums on the plastic-lined pan. Refrigerate them for at least 24 hours before serving at room temperature.
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