Do you remember the line ‘and visions of sugar plums danced in their head?’ in the poem ‘The Night Before Christmas’? And then there’s the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies in the Nutcracker ballet.
Well what the heck is a Sugar Plum? There’s a variety of stone fruit called Sugar Plum, but I find it hard to believe they’re good enough to summon up visions or fairies.
But think about early 1800s when the poem was written, or late 1800s in Russia when The Nutcracker was written. Kids back then didn’t have the avalanche of sugary treats that we do today. An orange or piece of fruit might have been a rare treat. (In fact, even I remember always getting an orange in my Christmas stocking.)
The Sugar Plums that might have inspired a place of honor in those works or art are round balls of ground up dried fruits and nuts, perhaps with spices or a bit of alcohol for flavorings. With a variety of intriguing seasonings, they could be just the thing to write into verse and dance.
Here’s my easy-to-make version. I’ve purposely kept the spices mild to accommodate most taste buds, but by all means, please do adjust them to your own palate. For my own consumption, I definitely pump them up.
Makes 30 1-inch balls
These confections come together pretty quickly with a food processor. Vary the ingredients as you’d like with whatever fruits and nuts you have on hand. The spices listed here are pretty mild so be sure to adjust the seasonings to your taste.
1 cup toasted pecans
8 pitted Medjool dates, about ¾ cup
½ cup each: pitted dried plums (prunes), unsulphured apricots, dried Calimyrna figs, golden raisins
Zest of one large orange
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
¼ tsp coriander
1/8 tsp cardamom
1/8 tsp anise seed
Pinch of kosher salt
Optional: toppings of your choice such as finely chopped almonds, pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts or pecans, unsweetened coconut flakes, unsweetened chocolate; turbinado or powdered sugar; raw cacao powder
- Pulse nuts coarsely in a food processor
- Add the fruits, zest and spices
- Pulse until all pieces are evenly chopped and small but not yet a paste
- Scoop out the paste into 30 level tablespoons. Roll each piece into a ball, about 1-inch in diameter.
- Dredge balls in toppings of your choice or leave plain. To serve, place in mini fluted paper cups.