Have you ever been singing christmas carols and in the midst of it all you start suddenly thinking "What is a sugar plum anyways?" That's what happened to me: it was the day before Thanksgiving, and our office was mostly empty. The empty desks made us even more anxious for the holiday break before, and after days of planning holiday marketing campaigns and writing catchy jingles about Christmas, we gave in and turned on the Christmas carols. (I wish I could have said I went caroling! Instead you now all get to picture me sitting at a desk humming to myself. Festive! 😉)
Anyways, I was humming along when suddenly I stopped short. What is a sugar plum? And if they're so great to be in not one, but two Christmas stories (A Night Before Christmas and The Nutcracker), why don't we ever eat them? A question for Google!
Ok Google, what's a sugar plum?
Well, I'm still not 100% sure to be honest. The stories out there are mixed and range from describing a basic nonpareil (I'm picturing a dragee) to sweet sticky balls of fruit, nuts and seeds. The real answer? The variety in answers leave me still unsure. Certainly, back in the day, simple fruit and nut balls would be easier to make in any old country kitchen. Or maybe A Night Before Christmas was about kids dreaming of sprinkles, and the Nutcracker is about a land ruled by the Sprinkle Fairy.
What ever the real answer is, I can not tell you how fun it is to whip up these easy treats and call them Sugar Plums, because everyone's face lights up with discovery. Wouldn't yours?
A mixture of dates, figs, prunes, and almonds, they're naturally sweet and sticky. A bit of allspice, a few anise seeds, and a dash each of cardamom and nutmeg and suddenly it taste like Christmas. The final touch--orange zest- bringing a complex fruit twist to each bite, making them taste fresh and bold all at once.
So are these what everyone use to eat at Christmas Eve soirées? I honestly could't tell you, but it almost doesn't matter -- this dessert is so sweet, wholesome and fun that I'm perfectly happy calling them Sugar Plums for now.
Yields: 12-18 | Total Time:
- 6 ounces unsalted almonds
- 4 ounces dried figs, stems removed
- 4 ounces medjool dates, pitted
- 3 ounces prunes
- 4 anise seeds
- 4 allspice berries
- 1/8 teaspoon caraway seeds
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 2 whole cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- Zest of 1 orange
- 1/8 teaspoon zested fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- Optional: 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- Pinch of salt
- Place almond in the bowl of your food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds, just long enough for them to be chopped into a rough crumb
- Add the dried fruit to the bowl, and pulse again for about 1 minute. A course crump should form, that sticks together when pressed with your fingers. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed to incorporate all of the ingredients.
- Grind the spices, and add them to the food processor along with the orange zest, ginger zest, maple syrup, and salt. Pulse food processor again until incorporated.
- Using your hands, roll the mixture into 1-inch to 1.5-inch spheres. Optional: Roll each ball in the coconut sugar until coated. Store in airtight container in fridge.