Sugarplums are a traditional festive sweetmeat that date back to the 16th century and despite their name, they aren’t sugared plums. Well that’s not quite true because this particular recipe calls for dried plums (prunes) – along with almonds and golden raisins.
If you love traditional English Christmas Pudding, then you’ll love these tender little treats as they have the same wonderful, slightly tipsy, fruity-rich aroma. There are many recipes out there for sugarplums, no doubt because they’ve been around for so long and each cook has made their own version over the centuries. Some are made with aromatic spices and honey, and some are laced with cognac. Experiment with your own favorite dried fruit/brandy combinations – but prunes are a must, in my opinion.
My version is very simple – so simple in fact, that making them would be a fun treat for kids from 3 to ninety-three.
BTW, the amount of Grand Marnier in this recipe isn’t enough to make even the smallest sugarplum fairy fall over drunk – and just to give them a little extra sparkle, I roll them in vanilla sugar combined with edible gold dust. If you don’t have access to a shop selling specialized cake decorating stuff, you can buy edible gold powder online from Amazon or better yet, from www.nycake.com
I make my own vanilla sugar but regular fine white sugar will work perfectly. To make vanilla sugar, simply stash a whole vanilla bean in an airtight jar filled with sugar. That’s it. It will last for ages; re-use the vanilla bean when you’ve used up the sugar.
These are best made 24-48 hours ahead to allow the flavors to develop. After that, keep them in an airtight container at room temp for up to 2 weeks.
If you can’t live without chocolate and you’re feeling a bit ambitious, try these astonishingly good Prune and Armagnac Chocolate Truffles – not at all difficult to make but they do require more effort as they take a few days to prep.
(Makes approx 24)
1 cup (250ml measure) of ready to eat pitted prunes, chopped
1 cup (250ml measure) of golden raisins (sultanas)
1/3 cup (75ml measure) of slivered almonds
2 tablespoons of Grand Marnier
¼ cup (63ml) of fine white vanilla (or regular) sugar, combined with ¼ teaspoon of edible gold dust (optional)
Put the prunes, raisins, almonds and Grand Marnier in a food processor and pulse on and off until you have a thick sticky paste.
With wet hands, roll heaped teaspoonfuls of the paste into balls and then roll them one at a time in the sugar.
Store at room temp in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks – and I like to roll them in the remaining (gilded) sugar once more just before serving.