I never thought about "while visions of sugar plums danced in their heads" being a real candy until I read Kate of Kate in the Kitchen's blog post this afternoon about making her own. It was one of those "no way!" moments for me. After I read the recipe and realized I had everything for them in the house, I decided that I too must make sugar plums dance in my head.
I just really never thought about it. Pushed, I would have assumed sugar plums to be either a sugared dried plum (prune) or a marzipan creation since marzipan fruits were particularly popular in the Victorian era. For more history on marzipan, a centuries old Mediterranean and Arabic traditional sweet, click here: Marzipan history
The term sugar plum doesn't refer to the fruit, it's a broad term for a boiled sugar/fruit, nut or seed candy shaped as a small round ball . The confection has been around since the 1600's and the term was used commonly to mean anything that is pleasant. Also, interesting is that in Victorian times "plum" meant raisins, not the fruit we call a plum today.
To get the recipe go over to Kate's blog: http://cooknkate.wordpress.com/2009/12/20/yes-its-those-sugar-plums/ or click to continue the post below.
Like Kate, I used the recipe but subbed a couple of things for what I had. Having no apricots, I mixed dates and prunes (after all, that is a dried plum) and instead of all almonds, I used a mix of almonds, pecans, and walnuts. And again, like Kate and funny that I hadn't read her cook's note yet, I also added another spice to the cinnamon, only I went the cardamon route instead of nutmeg. I totally agree with her, though, any combination of those three spices really are each other's best friends.
I really enjoyed these little treats and love the idea that there's nothing processed in them, although I admit that I have a feeling the teens in my family aren't going to be as happy as I was with them. I can hear them now: What? Nuts and fruit? How boring! As Sydney says: Psych! More for us, the adults! Wish I'd thought to put a little spiced rum in them...Oh wait. Then the teens would want them.
Btw, this is my little kitchen Christmas tree. I love it for the primitive look and if you look closely you can see the mini kitchen utensil ornaments: rolling pin, sieve, pancake turner, ladel, spoon, and whisk. They are all metal with green, red, or yellow wooden handles.
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
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.
2. Combine almonds, apricots, dates, cinnamon, and zest in a food processor and process into a finely ground mixture.
3. Add orange juice and honey, and combine until the mixture becomes a sticky ball.
4. Pinch off pieces of the mixture and form into 1-inch balls. Roll in coconut. Place on the baking sheet and chill for about 1 hour until firm.