Thursday, December 16, 2010

Classic Sugar Plums

Sugar Plum candies are an old-fashioned, holiday favorite. These are traditional Christmas candies that lend their name to the Sugar Plum Fairy in The Nutcracker. They are, of course, also prominently featured in The Night Before Christmas, "...visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads".

Back in the day, plum was the common term used for dried fruit of any variety. Sugar Plums can be made with dried apricots, cherries, and or dates. The fruit is combined with honey and a mix of nuts, traditionally either walnuts or almonds. Spices like cinnamon and nutmeg are added before they are rolled into balls and coated in confectionery sugar.

Feel free to experiment and substitute nuts, seeds and spices with those of your choice. A wonderful garnish for these holiday delights is mukwas, the aromatic, colorful, candied spice (mainly fennel, anise) and seed mixes found at Indian and Pakistani food stores and restaurants.

Makes about 24 Sugar Plums

Ingredients:

1 cup Dates, pitted & chopped

½ cup Dried Apricots, chopped

¼ cup Candied Orange Peel, chopped (can be made ahead or substitute with 2 tablespoons orange zest)

¼ cup Golden Raisins, chopped

¼ cup Dried Tart Cherries, chopped

1 cup Walnuts, shelled & chopped

½ cup Marcona Almonds, chopped

2 Tablespoons Black Sesame Seeds

½ Tablespoon Ground Cinnamon

½ Tablespoon Ground Nutmeg

½ Tablespoon All Spice

½ Tablespoon Coriander, chopped

¼ cup Honey

½ teaspoon Sea Salt

1 cup Confectioners Sugar

*optional Mukhwas

Equipment:

Large Airtight Container

Wax Paper

Sharp Chef Knife or Food Processor

Medium Mixing Bowl

Small Bowl

Paper Candy Cups

  1. Line airtight container with wax paper and cut several extra sheets for additional layers. Set aside.
  2. Mince all dried fruit with either a sharp kitchen knife or by using a food processor. Transfer fruit to medium mixing bowl.
  3. Finely chop nuts with a sharp kitchen knife or with food processor. Add nuts to minced fruit in mixing bowl.
  4. Add sesame seeds, spices, honey and salt to nuts and fruit in bowl. Using clean, dry hands, blend together well until a chunky, moist and moldable paste forms.
  5. Once mixture is well blended, roll into 1½ ” balls. Place finished Sugar Plum balls in airtight container using wax paper between layers. For best results let balls sit overnight before coating.
  6. Place confectioners sugar in small bowl and gently rock Sugar Plums until they are evenly coated with the white sugar. *Option: Garnish top of Sugar Plums with Mukhwas.
  7. Place coated Sugar Plums in paper candy cups and store in same airtight container, replacing wax if needed. Dust lightly with confectioners sugar when ready to serve.

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