Easy Recipe: Christmas Sugar Plums

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Sugar Plum easy no-cook recipe

Have you ever wondered what the heck a sugar plum was? In my mini quest to make as many traditional Christmas treats as possible, my mind went immediately to sugar plums. Sugar plums are most well-known from the poem "'Twas The Night Before Christmas," and the Sugar Plum Fairy is a character in the Christmas ballet The Nutcracker. What are sugar plums and sugar plum fairies, really, and what do they have to do with Christmas?

According to Wikipedia (of course), the word "sugar plum" came into common usage in the 1600s, and traditionally stood for a candy that contained dried fruits. What do they have to do with Christmas? Nothing, really. The only ties I can draw between Christmas and sugar plums is that sugar plums were seen as a luxury item, and perhaps were a treat only at Christmastime.

The idea of a plum-colored, plum-flavored candy is much more romantic than one made, like most other English Christmas treats, of dried fruit mixed with spices, isn't it? I set out to find out whether the traditional sugar plum was really worthy of visions that dance around your head.

When I say that this sugar plum recipe is easy, I really mean it -- it's a no-cook recipe. I modified a recipe I found off of Nourished Kitchen.

Sugar Plums
Yields about 24 truffle-sized sugar plums

1 cup of unshelled walnuts
1 cup of chopped pitted dates
1/2 cup of chopped pitted prunes
1/2 cup of dried apricots, chopped
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of grated or ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of ground coriander (cilantro)
1/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
the zest of one orange
table sugar or desiccated coconut for coating
Optional: add 1/2 cup of your favorite dried fruits, chopped (cherries, cranberries, etc.)

In a food processor or blender, combine the walnuts, dried fruits, orange zest, and spices and pulse until a paste forms. If using a blender, you may have to scrape the paste from around the blade to prevent it from clogging.

Form little truffle-sized balls of paste (about 1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon), and roll in table sugar (or dried coconut) to coat.

Sugar Plum easy no-cook recipe
Sugar Plum easy no-cook recipe
Sugar Plum easy no-cook recipe
Sugar Plum easy no-cook recipe

That's it. Ta-da!

As with the mince pies, these were better than I'd expected them to be. They have a similar spiced fruit flavor and a similar unappetizing brown color, but the walnuts gave these a nutty, almost powdery flavor and texture. I had a difficult time tasting the coriander, so I upped the suggested 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon. These are a quick yet nice, relatively healthy sweet to have around for the holidays.

Happy Christmas Eve!

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