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Author Notes: You hear all about them in old-timey stories. They are a big part of the magic behind the Nutcracker. So what are sugarplums exactly? They are everything that is right with the world! You can make them without an oven. You can make them without any cooking equipment at all--although a food processor helps with the mincing. They are kid-friendly, allergy-friendly (you can sub pumpkin/sunflower seeds for nuts) and portable. They keep for weeks in a tightly sealed container. Their flavor actually improves over time, especially after refrigeration.
Sugarplums combine dried fruit, nuts, sweetener and spices that, on their own, may seem boring. But together they make magic! The best part about this recipe is that you can vary the ingredients according to your tastes and what you have around. They can even be leftover extras from making other holiday desserts. Coriander is my favorite spice, but maybe you'd prefer some ground juniper berry.
The recipe calls for sugar, for rolling. I found some very sparkly decorator's sugar at a cake supply store, and it added a nice extra holiday touch. You could also mix-in some "disco dust" (also available at cake stores) for a similar, icy effect, or just appreciate the beauty of natural sugar crystals. Over time, they will absorb some of the color of the cherries and plums and give the sugarplums a fruitier look that is equally as pretty. Substituting shredded coconut makes them look like little snowballs. Pulsing the coconut in a food processor beforehand until it is fine increases that effect.
This recipe was originally adapted from Saveur magazine, but I have evolved it over many holiday seasons to take on a life all it's own. My version was featured in the only December issue of the short-lived (yet locally-celebrated) magazine Brooklyn Bread Press, where it appears on page 25. —Anitalectric
Makes 24 pieces
- 2 cups raw cashews, ground
- 1 cup dried cherries, minced*
- 1 cup dried plums A.K.A. prunes, minced*
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 orange, zest only
- 1 lemon, zest only
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon each: black pepper, pink pepper & coriander
- 2 cups sugar or coconut, for rolling
- 1/4 cup cognac (optional)
- Combine the maple syrup, zests and spices in a large bowl (also cognac if using). Fold in the ground cashews and dried fruits. I like to use my hands for this step.
- Wrap the mixture tightly and refrigerate at least one hour.
- Roll a tablespoon-sized ball between wet hands, then roll in sugar or coconut to coat and place on a tray or in small baking cup. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. Refrigerate until firm, at least one hour.
- *(Tip: If you are using a food processor to mince, rough chop the fruits before pulsing for faster and more even results.)
- This recipe was entered in the contest for Your Best Holiday Confection