Recipe of the Week: Sugarplums

Since it's Christmas time, I chose to make Anita Chu's Sugar Plums recipe. Anita writes in her Field Guide to Candy, "When visions of sugarplums dance in children's heads, it would be interesting to know exactly what sugarplums they dream of." She explains that historically "sugarplums," referred to a wide variety of candies, but more recently have come to refer to "soft, sticky balls of dried fruits and nuts, often rolled in shredded coconut or confectioners' sugar. They do not necessarily contain plums."

According to Anita, "Sugarplums were immortalized in Clement Clarke Moore's poem "A Visit from St. Nicolas" and "Tchaikovsky's Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker." Hence our association of sugarplums with Christmas.

(Recipe from Field Guide to Candy by Anita Chu; Quirk Books, 2009)

2 cups almonds, toasted and roughly chopped
1 cup dried apricots
1 cup pitted dates
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 tablespoons orange juice
1 tablespoon honey
Unsweetened flaked coconut for rolling

Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Combine almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, and zest in a food processor and process into a finely ground mixture. Add orange juice and honey, and combine until the mixture becomes a sticky ball.

Pinch off pieces of the mixture and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut. Place on the baking sheet for about 1 hour until firm.

Notes: You can substitute the fruits and nuts in this recipe. Dried cherries, figs, or raisins work well, as would hazelnuts, pistachios, or pecans. Try adding chopped candied ginger or candied citrus peel.