Hello, friends, and happy new year!
This is the sugar maple in my garden, still coated in ice from the recent ice storm. I haven’t spent much time looking ahead to the new year, just yet; instead, I find myself unwilling to let go of the extraordinary beauty that’s surrounded us for the past couple of weeks.
Here’s a picture of our local bit of waterfront path:
Another thing I’m unwilling to let go is my happiest food discovery of the holiday season: sugar plums. All I knew about sugar plums until recently was that line from Clement C. Moore’s “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas”, and the dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy. Then I got a recipe for sugar plums from my son’s former preschool teacher, Bonnie. They are absolutely lovely (Bonnie is, too). Sugar plums are also absurdly quick to make (no baking) and inherently dairy- and gluten-free, if that’s important to you.
So on the first day of 2014, let’s think about sugar plums, shall we? I hope your year ahead is as rich, flavourful, and surprising as these sugar plums.
2 cups whole almonds, toasted
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 or shredded coconut
Finely chop the almonds. Combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Add almonds, apricots, and dates and mix well. (I did this all in the food processor. Also, I used hazelnuts because I had some lying around and hazelnuts seem deeply festive, to me.)
Pinch off rounded teaspoon-size pieces of the mixture and roll into balls. Roll balls 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 skipped the coating because I dislike the taste of icing sugar and didn’t have superfine coconut. They were definitely sweet enough on their own.)