Sugarplums

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The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads…

I would love to have visions of dancing sugar-plums in my head, but I don’t know what they look like! And of course, there’s really no such thing, from a fruit standpoint. Ages ago I came across a recipe for Sugarplums on the Food Network website, and I was intrigued.

Turns out there have been candies/confections called Sugarplums around for a long time, and they’re all similar to this recipe, with nuts and dried fruits, rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to make!

Best of all, I had 7-year old help with these!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar, sieved
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground anise seed
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Swedish pearl sugar

Weigh out the Brazilnuts and all of the dried fruit, then place it all in the jar of a food processor. Pulse until on the coarse side, but not too coarse. You need all of it to stick together.

Place the mixture in a bowl and add the powdered sugar with the poppy seeds, cinnamon, cardamom, anise seeds, and fennel seeds. Give it all a stir and set aside.

When you are ready to finish the Sugarplums, have the nut-fruit mixture and two latex gloves handy. Place the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack.

Continue with the remaining fruit and nut mixture. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums, until everyone starts sampling them.

These are really sweet. I don’t think there’s any getting around it, because you need the dried fruits, the powdered sugar, and the stickiness of the honey. Definitely make these for your favorite sweets lover!

Semifreddo

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Semi freddo means half frozen in Italian. It’s a pretty good description of this dessert, which lives in the freezer, but gets soft within a few minutes at room temperature. It’s not ice cream. It’s a sabayon folded into whipped cream, then frozen.

I’ve actually made this dessert three times before. Horrors. I know. I usually make something new when I have an excuse to make a dessert for company. But this semifreddo is so good that sometimes I need to make it because I know how delicious it is.

This version uses dried cranberries and crystallized ginger, and is served with a berry sauce. But I’ve also made a pumpkin version that was incredible. In fact, I could probably make one a month, using whatever is in season – think strawberry, cherry, cranberry, citrus, etc… Semifreddo of the month club!

This dessert is very easy although it does take time. Fortunately, it should be made the day before, and taken out of the freezer before slicing and serving.

If you’ve never made a semifreddo, it’s time you did!!! It’s delicious and elegant.

Semifreddo with Dried Cranberries and Crystallized Ginger

2 3/4 cups heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup white wine, I used a Riesling
2/3 cups white sugar
Zest of one large orange
1 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup crystallized ginger

Whip the cream until firm peaks form. Refrigerate until needed.

Place plastic wrap going both directions in a large loaf pan, with plenty hanging over. My pan is 9″ long, and 6″ deep.

semi16

Have the orange zest handy, as well as the dried cranberries and ginger.

Place a large pot of water on the stove on simmer. Then place the egg yolks, wine, and sugar in your mixing bowl.

Beat the three ingredients until nice and smooth, then place the bowl over the simmering water, just as if you were tempering chocolate.

Continue beating.

And beating.

You will notice the mixture increase in volume, and also become lighter in color. After about ten minutes of beating or so, it will thicken.

Test the mixture with a thermometer – it should reach 160 degrees Farenheit.

When this happens, remove the bowl from the hot water, but continue beating until it cools, which should taker 7 or 8 minutes. If you want, have a pan of icy water on hand to put the bowl in, like I did, to expedite the cooling of the sabayon.

When you are sure that the mixture isn’t warm anymore, begin folding the whipped cream into the sabayon. You don’t want any streaks.

Then fold in the orange zest, dried cranberries and ginger.

Pour the semifreddo mixture gently in the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top.

Immediately place in the freezer. After about one hour, cover the loaf pan with the overhanging plastic wrap. I also add another layer of plastic wrap to insure that the semifreddo doesn’t absorb any off flavors from the freezer.

To serve, unwrap the semifreddo and turn it out onto a flat serving platter. Let it warm up for a few minutes, then slice it into 1/2″ slices. You can always use a knife that is held under running hot water to make the slices, then wipe the knife after each slice and repeat.

Top with a spoonful of berry sauce, if desired, and serve.

All kinds of different additions can be used in a semifreddo, but I stick with smaller pieces of dried fruits. Larger, dried cherries might interfere with the slicing process. Also, nuts like pistachios and macadamias would be fabulous as well, finely chopped.

It’s a very forgiving dessert!