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Visions of Sugarplums

Dec 27, 2009

Thanks to the Nutcracker, you've probably all had visions of sugarplums dancing in your heads, but I'd be willing to guess you're not even really sure what a sugar plum is. Is it a plum? Some kind of candied fruit? I'm pretty sure that as a child, I assumed that sugar plums were a kind of candy because I couldn't imagine why anyone would have visions of fruits dancing in their heads—it had to be candy! In fact, I wasn't far off. Popular during the 17th to 19th centuries, sugar plums were a type of candy made from sugar-coated nuts or seeds that were roughly the size of plums. They had wire stems for hanging, and often had caraway at the center because caraway was thought to have breath-freshening properties. Other spices, like anise, were also popular. Traditional sugar plums had a hardened candy shell.

I've developed a Sugar Plum recipe that is more like a no-bake cookie, but is filled with healthy dried fruits and nuts and it has received rave reviews from family and friends. I think this one makes a great year round snack for kids and adults. These Sugar Plums are decidedly not candy, but they sure disappeared like candy!

Feel free to vary the recipe with different types of dried fruits and nuts.

Sugar Plums

Makes about 2 dozen
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/3 cup finely chopped almonds

1 cup finely chopped dates

1/3 cup finely chopped dried apricots

1/3 cup finely chopped figs

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of cloves

1 teaspoon orange zest

3 Tablespoons honey

Powdered sugar, as needed

  1. Kids should be sure to have a grown up present when making this recipe.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  3. Spread walnuts out on a sheet pan and bake, turning, frequently, until lightly toasted—be careful not to burn these. If they burn they'll be bitter. Remove the walnuts from the oven and allow them to cool before finely chopping them. You can use a food processor, but be careful not to go too far or you'll make nut butter! Place chopped walnuts in a mixing bowl.

  4. Finely chop the almonds and add to the bowl with the walnuts.

  5. Finely chop the dates, apricots, and figs and mix them in with the nuts, making sure the nuts and dried fruit are evenly distributed.

  6. Add the cinnamon, cloves, and orange zest and mix well to combine.

  7. Add the honey and mix well again.

  8. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls and set them, in a single layer, on a plate. After you have finished rolling all the sugarplums dust them lightly with powdered sugar and transfer to a pretty plate or serving platter.


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