The word sugar-plum, evokes a quaint sense of old-world whimsy and yuletide celebrations gone by.
We think of Clement Clark Moore’s famous poem where “children were nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…” or the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from Tchaikovsky’s The Nut Cracker.
But what exactly is a sugar-plum?
While some may conclude by the name alone that it refers to a plum of a similar name, this Christmas-time confection is not a plum at all, nor is it required to consist of any.
While the true origins of the term sugar-plum has unfortunately been lost over time and faded into historical obscurity, it is thought to once have referred to any dried fruit or sweet confection.
The confection we have come to associate with the word sugar-plum today primarily contains dried fruits and nuts combined with holiday spices. It signifies everything simple, sweet and delectable about the holiday season.
While sugar-plums were a mainstay of holiday seasons of past they have fallen out of favor in recent years in favor of cookies and other sugar-filled sweets. I think they may be due for a comeback.
Wholesome and easy to prepare, they can be made in less than 15 minutes with a food processor. These no-bake, make-ahead fruit and nut “truffles” can also be stored for weeks in the refrigerator, perfect during the entertaining season.
Here nuts, dried cranberries, orange zest and dates are finely chopped, held together by a splash of Cointreau and finished with a light coat of chopped pistachios. At first bite a melting and subtle sweetness leads to the fragrant almost floral taste of orange peel and Cointreau swiftly followed by the tartness of cranberry. These maybe simple in content but are complex on the tongue.
Serve them with coffee or tea for an afternoon or after dinner treat. Needless to say, if you were to choose to drizzle these with a little melted chocolate I would not be opposed. I’ll leave that up to you.
Wishing you all a wonderful holiday.
RECIPE: Orange, Cranberry, Pistachio Sugar-Plums (aka Fruit and Nut Truffles)
- ½ cup / 60g raw pistachios
- ¾ / 90g cup raw almonds
- Pinch of fine sea salt
- 6 large, soft pitted medjool dates
- Zest of half an organic orange
- 1-2 tsps Cointreau or Grand Marnier (for an alcohol-free version substitute same amount of orange juice)
- ¼ cup / 30g dried cranberries
- Place a ¼ cup of the pistachios in a food processor and process until finely ground. Set aside in a small shallow bowl.
- Put the almonds and remaining ¼ of pistachios in the food processor with the salt and process until finely chopped.
- Add the dates, orange zest and Cointreau and process again until the mixture begins to clump together. Add the dried cranberries and pulse briefly until just mixed. Small chunks of cranberries should still be visible.
- Scoop about 1 Tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of your hand and squeeze and roll into a ball. Repeat until all the mixture has been formed into “truffles.”
- Roll each ball in the ground pistachios and chill for at least 1 hour before serving to firm.
- Store in a sealed container for up to one month in the fridge or a few months in the freezer.
Preparation time: 15 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): makes about 20
Copyright © 2010-2011 gourmande in the kitchen.
What are your favorite holiday food traditions?