Makes:about 18 |
Prep Time:20 minutes
Here it comes: sugarplum time. Whether you see them dancing in the Nutcracker or have visions of them dancing in your head, you’ve probably never made them. But I do every year. Sugarplums are a Victorian Christmas confection that is my annual gift to my decidedly 19th century father. Weirdly, they’re very 21st century, too, because they are vegan, they are gluten-free and they are made of fruits and nuts (that sounds so 1970s, I guess we have all our centuries covered). Not that any of that matters to my father. He is ailing and 89 and much of his time is spent in the past, where his memories take him to West Point, to his childhood as an army brat, and his adulthood as a rabble rousing realtor (yes, there is such a thing). But I always picture him with a book, usually a moldy 19th century volume, perhaps a Baedeker guide to Florence or something by Robert Louis Stevenson. And while he reads under a dim lamp, he is reaching out for his sugarplums, eating them all in one sitting. Maybe that’s what has kept him alive for so long. Because of all the things we eat at this time of year, these are actually good for you.
1/4 cup granulated (white) sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup shelled pistachios
4 oz (heaping 1/2 cup) pitted dates
3 oz (about 1/3 cup) dried Turkish apricots
3 oz (about 1/3 cup) dried figs, stems removed
2 tablespoons brandy or bourbon
1 tablespoon apricot preserves
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
pinch freshly ground pepper
Place a sheet of parchment paper or waxed paper on your countertop. Set out 18 or so small paper candy cups alongside. Put the sugar in a shallow bowl, such as a pasta bowl, and place it alongside.
In a food processor with the metal blade, pulse the walnuts and pistachios until finely chopped. Add the remaining ingredients (except the sugar) and pulse until the mixture clumps together into a paste.
Using a teaspoon, scoop up a rounded spoonful of the fruit-nut mixture, roll gently into a ball and roll in sugar to coat. Place on paper. Repeat with remaining mixture and sugar. When all are finished, transfer to the paper candy cups and place on a plate or baking sheet. Refrigerate sugar plums until firm, at least 1 hour. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.