Sugarplums, like frankincense and myrrh, are holiday icons that all of us know but when it comes down to it, most of us couldn’t really define. Sugarplums are easy little confections that should make a huge comeback; made of finely chopped dried fruit and nuts, they’re little bite-sized sweets made with whole foods – fried fruits and nuts – the kind of goodies that were popular during the holidays before the days of candy canes and Pot O’ Gold chocolates. I like using soft dried figs, on their own or with apricots; toasted almonds and hazelnuts, but the varieties of fruit and nuts you choose really depend on what you have in the cupboard or what you’re in the mood for.
Dark cocoa and honey (or Lyle’s Golden Syrup) make them sweet and chewy like candy, only better. Try flavoring them with cinnamon, orange zest or flavoured extracts; or try whizzing in a spoonful of mincemeat. Bonus: if you put them in little paper cups and call them candies, your three-year-old will totally believe you.
5-6 dried figs (stems trimmed)
7-8 dried apricots
1/3 cup sliced or slivered almonds, toasted, or 1/2 cup toasted whole hazelnuts
3 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
3 Tbsp. honey or golden syrup (or less, if your fruit is nice and soft and sticky already)
a bit of grated orange zest (optional)
1/4 tsp. almond or vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
sugar, for rolling
Trim tough stems from figs and cut them in half. In a food processor, pulse the figs, apricots, almonds and cocoa until finely chopped. Add the honey, orange zest, vanilla and cinnamon and pulse until well combined. Add some extra cocoa or nuts if the mixture is too wet; some extra honey if it won’t stick together.
Place some sugar in a shallow dish. Roll the sugar plum mixture into bite-sized balls, then roll them in sugar to coat. If you like, place them in paper or aluminum candy cups, like truffles. (Sugar plums can be made up to a week ahead; store in an airtight container at room temperature, or in the fridge.)