Friday, December 2, 2011

Dance of the Sugar Plum candies!!

Often I've heard the song, "Twas the Night Before Christmas", with the lyrics;

"The children were nestled
All safe in their beds
While visions of sugarplums
Danced in their heads"

I love that old song, it always creates an image of Christmas magic with elves, candy, stars and Santa dancing in the dreams of sleeping children. I've often wondered what a sugar plum was and how delicious it must be, if the children dream of them the night before Christmas.
Children love cartoons, and I have not grown out of that love myself.  I do enjoy cartoons, and don't mind the least that my child wants to watch them all the time.  One of my favorite cartoons is "Max and Ruby", a story of a little boy bunny and his perfectionist sister.  In one episode, Ruby and her friend Louise are giving a "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies", ballet recital to Grandma and Max.  The refreshments include, you guessed it, sugar plums.  I was kind of disappointed to see that they were sugar coated plums.  What a bummer.
One day, while shopping in Whole Foods (my favorite grocery store ever), I saw a display of Christmas treats.  I noticed a box of sugar plums.  Now the moment of truth.  I turned the box around to read the ingredients, to my pleasant surprise, it was not a box of sugar coated plums.  Score.  I purchased them and went to the car to see if the sugar plums held up to the Christmas song hype.  They did and then some.  Now, I wasn't going to spend a ton of money buying these sugar plums, so I would have to learn to make them.  I searched the web for a recipe that was similar to the ones I had finally found.  There were many recipes, but the one I am posting, with a few minor changes, is the one that included all the ingredients I really liked.  
The base recipe is by Treva Bedinghaus, Guide.

I added a couple things which I will include under the original ingredients, and italicized. 


2 cups whole almonds
1/4 cup honey
2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped dried apricots
1 cup finely chopped pitted dates
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp. grated ginger
1/2 tsp. ground cardamon
1 bag semi-sweet chocolates
Whole cloves


Preheat oven to 400. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool, then finely chop.
Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg (ginger, cardamon) in a medium mixing bowl.  Add almonds, apricots and dates and mix well.
Pinch off rounded teaspoon size pieces of mixture and roll into the shape of a plum and add a clove to the top as the stem.  (Rinse hands often, as mixture is very sticky.) Roll in sugar, then refrigerate in single layers between sheets of waxed paper in airtight containers for up to 1 month.  Their flavor improves after ripening for several days.

I actually rubbed my hands with a little butter and that helped keep the mixture from sticking.  Before I formed the sugar plums, I used a double boiler and melted the bag of semi-sweet chocolates.  Then as I formed the mixture into balls, I dropped in the melted chocolate and covered them.  I dropped the chocolate coated balls onto a lined cookie sheet and my little boy took a spoon and sprinkled (dumped....whichever you choose) colored sugar on the chocolate (purple would be ideal).  I didn't use the confectioners sugar. 
A few notes for those who can learn from my mistakes.  I, mistakenly, thought I could take a cup of dried apricots and when they were finely chopped by the food processor, that it would still be one cup. duh, not so.  As my Mom told me, it will vary, best is to finely chop and measure appropriately.  Same with the dates.  If I had chopped the dried fruits first, thereby getting the correct amount added to the mixture, it would have tasted better.  Don't get me wrong, they taste good, but a little too much nut flavor for my taste. 
My Mom also had a great idea, take a pitted prune (dried plum) and use a melon baller and scoop out the middle, then stuff the sugar plum mixture into the prune shell and THEN dip in chocolate.  Too much detail work for me.  I like short and sweet recipes, not complications....but, for those of you who don't mind I think it's a great idea.  Let me know how it turns out!!!

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