Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Visions of Sugar Plums

I am SOOO glad I'm not on a frantic end-of-year deadline (been there, done that). My first beekeeping mystery has been signed, sealed, and delivered, and the next one isn't due until May. That means I can celebrate properly, and since we only have 23 more days until Christmas, it's officially cookie making season at my house.

I wish I could say I belong to a group of friends who gather to exchange cookies, recipes, and stories. But I don't. Still, I'll make several different kinds and my mom will fill in the rest as she does every year.

I'm dreaming of rum balls, snickerdoodles, gingerbread boys, cinnamon logs, eggnog cookies, chocolate crescents, peppermint bars, corn flake wreaths with red-hots on the bows. And sugar plums.

That's right. Sugar plums. Several years ago I found a recipe in my favorite food magazine, Saveur. Guests love them as much as I do, and they are easy to make. Here's the recipe:

2 c. whole almonds
1/4 c. honey
2 tsp. grated orange zest
1 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
1 c. finely chopped dried apricots
1 c. finely chopped pitted dates
1 c. confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast in oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. Then finely chop.
Meanwhile, combine honey, orange zest, cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Add almonds, apricots, and dates and mix well.
Pinch off rounded teaspoon-sized 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.
Dust with sugar again before serving.

What vision of cookies is dancing through your head?