Savory Biscotti

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The cookbook by Martha Stewart, called Martha Stewart’s Hors D’Oeuvres Handbook, was published in 1999, pretty soon after I started my catering business.

It’s a beautiful book, even if you’re not a Martha Stewart fan. Her ideas for hors d’oeuvres are, not surprisingly, creative and unique. Sometimes they’re on the crazy end of the spectrum – completely impractical and unreasonable.

One thing always got my attention – savory biscotti. She served them like fun crackers, but they could be used for canapés.

When I think of biscotti, I always think sweet, like my Christmas biscotti. But these are savory varieties, and include ingredients like nuts, seeds, cheese, olives, and other goodies. I imagined them to be really good served alongside cheese, with prosecco or rosé.

I decided it was time to make a variety of savory biscotti for a fun get-together, to have something unique on hand!

The following recipe is the base recipe. What I actually used in my savory biscotti is below.

Savory Biscotti
by Martha Stewart
printable recipe below

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 8 pieces
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon olive oil, divided
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk

Place the flour, pepper, baking powder, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Combine on low speed.

Add the butter and beat until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk together the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the eggs, and milk. Gradually pour the milk mixture into the dough and mix just until combined.

This is the base dough for savory biscotti. Before chilling the dough and proceeding with baking, add various combinations of savory items and make sure they’re well distributed.

I kneaded the dough a bit before folding in my add-ins, which are listed below, along with Martha’s suggestions.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a baking sheet with the remaining olive oil and set aside.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. (I halved the dough to make 2 logs.)

Roll each piece into a log measuring 1 1/2″ thick and about 7″ long. (I formed a log about 12″ long, then flattened it to about 1/2″ thick. (I am pretty sure MS meant 1 1/2″ wide, not thick.)

Transfer the logs to the prepared baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until chilled, about 30 minutes.

Brush each log with an egg wash (1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt). I didn’t do this. I did make sure there was a bit of grated cheese on the top of the biscotti, however.

Bake until the logs are light brown and feel firm to the touch, about 30-40 minutes. Reduce the oven to 250 degrees F.

Using a serrated knife, slice the logs crosswise on a long diagonal into 1/4″ thick slices that are 3-4″ long. Arrange the slices cut-side down on a wire rack set over a baking sheet and bake, turning the biscotti halfway through cooking time for even browning, until crisp, about 40 minutes.

Cool completely and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

These biscotti really are fabulous, and perfect on a cheese platter. Charcuterie would be a fabulous addition.

Today I simply paired them with Cambazola, but they’d be crazy good with a soft goat cheese or any spreadable herbed cheese.

You can really go crazy with all of the ingredient choices. Martha Stewart’s orange zest suggestion was really tempting but I didn’t have any oranges on this day.

Instead of all olive oil, you could use a flavored or infused oil, or even a little truffle oil.

I’ll definitely be making these again, and will enjoy switching up the ingredients.

Ingredients I used in addition to the above recipe:
Dried parsley
Garlic powder
White pepper
About 3 ounces coarsely chopped walnuts
About 3 ounces pitted Kalamata olives, sliced lengthwise
Grated Grana Padana, about 1 1/2 ounces

Martha Stewart’s savory biscotti suggestions:
Lemon zest, capers, parsley, and browned butter instead of olive oil
Orange zest, pistachios, and black olives
Parmesan, fennel seeds, and golden raisins

Basil Pesto

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Basil pesto is such a huge deal in my house. Mostly because my husband could eat it on ice cream, practically.

To me, pesto is an extremely versatile ingredient. This flavorful, emerald-colored paste can be added to soups, breads, meat, seafood, salad dressings, sauces, marinades, and so many other dishes.

The only thing is, you have to make it. You can buy prepared pesto, but it’s expensive; home made is better.

All you need are a few basil plants, some dirt, a little water, and lots of sun. I’ve been growing basil for over 35 years in Texas and Oklahoma, and I don’t end up with basil plants – I have basil bushes. And the weather in these states can be brutal. So trust me – there’s no green thumb requirement for growing basil.

Today I’m making a batch of traditional basil pesto based on how it’s made in the Ligurian region of Italy where basil grows in abundance, called pesto alla Genovese.

I’ve always heard that the best Italian pesto is made only from baby basil leaves, but I use the larger leaves as well, as long as they’re not “leathery.” And I just buy domestic basil plants locally.

The only other thing I do when I make a batch of pesto is not add cheese. Omitting cheese saves space in my freezer; it probably cuts the pesto volume by 50%. Then when I use pesto and want cheese, I freshly grate it.

Also, with having non-cheesy pesto, it is basically another ingredient than the cheesy version. For example, the non-cheesy pesto can go in soups, in a vinaigrette, or a marinade, where cheese isn’t a necessary component.

Here’s my recipe for a batch of pesto, when you have an abundance of fresh basil. There’s no exact recipe, and you’re welcome to alter it to your own tastes.

After I pick the basil branches in the morning, I set them outside to let the creepy-crawlers escape. I don’t know if it really works, but it makes me feel better.

Basil Pesto (Cheeseless)
Makes about 72 ounces

4 ounces of pine nuts, I toast mine
Approximately 10 ounces of good olive oil
2 heads garlic, cloves peeled
Basil leaves – from a giant armful of branches

Place the pine nuts, olive oil, and garlic in a large blender jar. Blend until smooth. This is an important step so the rest of the pesto-making process is only about adding leaves.

Then begin adding leaves, making sure they are soft, and void of damage, bugs, or webs.

There’s a point when you can barely blend in the last leaves, as in the photo above. If you must, add a tablespoon of oil, and play with your blender to get the pesto nice and smooth. Then you will end up with this.

Spatula the pesto into sterilized jars. The pesto can be refrigerated but I freeze until needed, and thaw one jar at a time.

Now to the pesto pasta. Choose a 1-pound package of pasta, and cook it to the package directions.

Drain the pasta, then place it back the still-hot pot. Add some pesto, I used about 1 cup of what I’d just made, but we like it strong. Add about the same amount of grated cheese, or to your liking. Then gently stir.

Serve the pasta while it’s nice and warm and the cheese has melted. You can also add some evaporated milk, goat milk, or cream to the pesto for a creamier pasta dish.

If you’ve never made pesto, this one would be a good recipe with which to start.

Pesto oxidates easily, but just on the surface area. Stir it up and the pesto will still be emerald green.

To prevent this in the jar, pour a little olive oil on top of the pesto.

Once you get the hang of pesto, it’s fun and easy to switch out the herbs, and use different nuts and even seeds, to create unique pestos.

Here are some other ways I’ve made and used pesto.

Gordon’s Christmas Muesli

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I’m a big sucker for both Gordon Ramsay, and Christmas. Especially Christmas, but I really respect Gordon Ramsay.

Because he wasn’t well known in the U.S. until he exploded onto food television, many Americans weren’t aware that he’d had a long, tough, distinguished and successful culinary journey up to that point.

And he still is successful. His restaurants have been awarded 16 Michelin stars.

Gordon, since we’re on a first-name basis, and Christmas are represented beautifully in a book called “Christmas with Gordon, published in 2010.”

I’ve bookmarked many recipes, and made a few since I first bought the book. But this year while looking through it, a recipe popped out at me that I thought would also make a great gift, which is Christmas Muesli.

It’s not an especially unique recipe, especially for Gordon Ramsay. Beef Wellington is typically associated with the Ramsay name. But I’m excited to make the muesli as gifts.

It’s been many years since I made my own granola. It was so healthy, that only I would eat it. Lots of raw grains, rolled grains, toasted grains, toasted nuts, toasted seeds and no sugar. Yep, that’s why I was the only one who liked it.

But this recipe doesn’t contain lots of sugar. Instead there are an abundance of dried fruits. And, it’s also pretty.

Here’s the recipe.

Christmas Muesli
Makes about 1.3 kg
printabe recipe at bottom

400 g porridge oats
75g unsweetened desiccated coconut
100g skinned hazelnuts
100g skinned Brazil nuts, roughly chopped
100g soft light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
180ml water
120ml groundnut oil
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
75g pitted dates, roughly chopped
75g dried apricots, roughly chopped
75g dried cranberries
50g crystallized ginger, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.

Combine the oats, coconut, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, brown sugar, and ground spices in a large bowl. Mix well.

Whisk together the water oil, vanilla and salt and then stir into the dry ingredients.

Spread the mixture out in two large, shallow roasting trays.

Toast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, stirring and swapping the trays occasionally, until the muesli is golden and crisp, checking frequently towards the end.

Leave to cool.

Stir in the dried fruit and crystallized ginger.


Store in an airtight container.

I found some tall containers that would be perfect for the granola, and used a plastic baguette bag to line them.

Much prettier!

Enjoy with milk or any milk substitute, or plain yogurt. It’s honestly the best granola I’ve ever had! I’ve already made another batch…

 

 

Mimi’s Chicken Salad

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Years ago, I visited a girlfriend in Texas to help with her daughter’s baby shower. She lives just outside of Austin, so it’s always fun to visit. (Think Texas Hill/Wine Country!)

One of the dishes planned for the shower luncheon was “Mimi’s Chicken Salad.” I had no idea what that was, but she told me that it was my recipe, thus the name!

Recently I was reflecting on my “namesake” chicken salad, but couldn’t remember what the heck was in it. I emailed my friend, and she sent me back a photograph of my recipe. In a cookbook.

The cookbook is “Cooking by the Bootstraps: A Taste of Oklahoma Heaven Cooked Up by the Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma, published in 2002.

So not only did I forget how to make my own chicken salad, I didn’t remember it was a recipe I created, nor did I remember that it is in this cookbook – which I own!

I’ll just chalk this up to (older) age.

Here’s the recipe, although somewhat adapted, because I can’t even leave my own recipes alone!

Mimi’s Chicken Salad, or Mango Chutney Chicken Salad

Chicken tenders, about 1.2 pounds
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped nuts, I used pistachios
1/2 cup chopped mangoes
1/3 cup mango chutney
3 green onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, I recommend Penzey’s sweet curry powder
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Grill the chicken tenders in a skillet, with a little oil, seasoned first with salt and pepper. Grill the chicken just till barely pink so as to keep them tender. Set them aside to cool slightly.

Cut the chicken into small pieces and place in a medium bowl. Add the sour cream and mayonnaise and stir until the chicken is well incorporated.

You can adjust the volume of sour cream and mayo mixture to suit your taste. I prefer chicken salad just creamy enough, but not drowning in the mayo.

Add the remaining ingredients together in a bowl and stir gently.

Add the mixture to the chicken and combine them well.

Refrigerate the chicken salad if not serving immediately. Serve chilled or at room temperature on a platter of lettuce leaves; I prefer this salad at room temperature.

Alternatively, make chicken salad sandwiches with sliced croissants or your favorite soft bread.

I actually prefer making roll-ups with tender butter lettuce instead of sandwiches.


What’s fun about this recipe is that you can mix up the nuts and add fruits – even dried fruits. Think about chopped macadamias and dried cherries!

I’m really appreciative of the local Junior Welfare League of Enid, Oklahoma for including some of my recipes in this cookbook. It was an honor.

Hazelnut Spatzele

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After the success of my pistachio spatzele, which I made in an attempt to duplicate what I’d enjoyed at a restaurant, I started thinking about other possible spazele made with nuts. And of course I thought of my favorite nut – the hazelnut.

So I used my recipe except substituted hazelnuts for pistachios in the spazele batter, and again used the grater spazele maker. I served them in a gorgonzola cream sauce, and the result was fabulous.

One change I made was a result of a reader who suggested that my spazele could be longer. This is what my pistachio spazele looked like.

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Ginger, from the blog Ginger & Bread, commented… “I make the batter much more runny when using the grater, so that it almost drips through the holes by itself – as a result the Spätzle end up longer and thinner.”

We had a bit of back and forth, because I think that it’s clear in one photo from that post that my batter is on the runny side, but then I thought that because it was my first time using the grater, perhaps I moved the hopper too fast, and that was why my spazele were short.

In any case, I decided to make a runnier batter. And it didn’t work. I ended up with what looked like oatmeal. I’m actually surprised that the batter didn’t completely dissolve in the boiling water.

So now I’m wondering if it’s a factor of ground nuts being in this batter, and will try again using a traditional spazele batter. Because what Ginger says makes sense. It just didn’t work with this batter.

Hazelnut Spazele in a Gorgonzola Cream Sauce

1 cup cream or evaporated milk, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
2 ounces shelled hazelnuts, peels removed, finely ground
1 cup flour
Pinch of salt

Place the cream, eggs, and hazelnuts in a large bowl and whisk until smooth.
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Meanwhile, have the spazele grater gadget on top of a large pot of boiling water.
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Add the flour to the batter and stir gently. Then pour some batter into the carriage of the grater. Like I mentioned, I tried to move the carriage slower this time.
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I still got the same size spazele. After about 1 minute, using a spider sieve, remove them from the water, let the sieve drain on a tea towel for a second, then place them in a bowl. Continue with the remaining batter.
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I wanted this spazele dish to be simple, so I first added some crumbled Gorgonzola to the spazele, and then I added some warmed cream.


I topped the spazele with some toasted hazelnut halves.
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Serve immediately while still warm.
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I served salt and pepper, but I felt the spazele needed none of either.
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The hazelnuts and the Gorgonzola were a wonderful combination. But just like with the pistachio spazele, I’m not sure the ground nuts made a significant flavor contribution.
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Bread for Cheese

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I’m addicted to cheese. It’s one of the joys in my life, besides the obvious stuff like family and friends. If only I was addicted to celery, I wouldn’t have to bake bread to go with cheese.

Bread is not something I make a lot anymore. I used to make it almost daily, mostly for my husband, who is bread-addicted. These days he’s down on carbs, so that’s why I don’t bake much anymore. But fortunately I don’t have to twist his arm to get him to eat cheese – especially good cheese.

I’ve mentioned before that the holidays make me think of all kinds of festive foods. In my house, from October 1st Thanksgiving through New Year’s it’s a food frenzy.

I not only start planning dishes with figs and cranberries and sweet potatoes, I plan the cheese itinerary. On top of that list is Époisses, which we discovered when in Beaune, which is in the Burgundy region of France, in 2002. To this day, I think it’s still banned on French transportation. And it’s a French cheese!

Although it would be classified as a stinky cheese because of the smell (think standing amongst cows in a cow paddy), it is wonderfully smooth and flavorful.

I always serve Epoisses with sliced of bread made with dried fruits and nuts. They just go together.

The other day I happened upon some dried currants, so I picked those up. And because of my love of hazelnuts this time of year, they’re going into the bread as well. For today I’ll just stick to currants and hazelnuts, but there will be a generous amount of both.

Sometimes I make the bread so dense with fruits and nuts that it’s almost like a yeasted fruitcake, but this one is on the breadier side.

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Époisses comes in a little carton. So you really don’t have to do anything presentation wise if you don’t want to. But do make sure you take it out of the refrigerator about 3-4 hours before you serve it. That’s the only way you will get the lovely runniness that typifies this unique cheese.

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Fruit and Nut Bread for Cheese Pairing

3 ounces currants
Cherry brandy or port
3 ounces toasted hazelnuts
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons yeast
1/2 teaspoon sugar
8 ounces goat’s milk or evaporated milk
1 egg, whisked
Scant 5 cups of flour in total, 1/2 cup of it whole wheat flour

Place the currants in a small bowl, and cover with a liquid like port. Or, if you prefer, use orange juice. Let them soften for at least 30 minutes before draining them thoroughly right before using. You can always save the liquid for another purpose. Don’t include the liquid or the yeast may not function properly.

Have all your ingredients ready. Chop the hazelnuts and set aside.

Place 1/4 of warm water in a large, warmed bowl. Sprinkle on the yeast and sugar, and let it sit for about 3-4 minutes, or until the yeast softens.

Give the mixture a whisk, then put the bowl in a warm place for about 5 minutes. The mixture will have doubled in volume.

Add warmed milk and the whisked egg to the yeast mixture. I thought I had a can of evaporated milk, but it turned out to be goat’s milk. It still works, which is what I love about brea. It’s not like making pastry!

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Then whisk 1/2 cup of flour into the mixture. Place the bowl in a warm place and let the mixture double in volume, about 45 minutes.

Switching to a spoon or spatula, vigorously stir in 1 cup of flour. Cover the bowl with a damp dishcloth, and return it to the warm place for about 1 hour.

Next, add 1/2 cup of whole wheat flour and the hazelnuts and stir together. The bread dough is ready to be turned out onto a floured surface.

Using about 1/3 more of flour, knead the dough until smooth, then fold the currants into the dough.

Knead a few more minutes until the currants are fully incorporated, then place the dough into a greased loaf pan, or any pan or pans of choice. Place it in the warm place for at least 30 minutes, or until the dough has at least doubled in size.

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Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 375 degrees Farenheit.

Place the pan in the oven and bake the bread approximately 40 minutes. If you’re not sure if it’s done, you can use a thermometer to see if it has reached 195 degrees internally. It shouldn’t become hotter than that or it will be overbaked.

Let the bread cool. When you’re ready to serve it slice it with a serrated knife.

I love the pairing of a fruit and nut bread with this particular cheese, or any cheese, actually.

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Look how gooey Époisses is:

The bread is so easy to make, and it’s fun to change up the different fruits and nuts. It could have just been easily figs, cranberries, and walnuts.

cur1

Fruit and Nut Crackers

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A while back I purchased these beautiful crackers from Whole Foods. I was visiting my daughter at the time and we paired them with cheese that night for a pre-dinner treat.

toasts
The brand is Raincoast, and the crackers are $9.99 for 6 ounces – yes, a bit pricey. They have a few different varieties, but I don’t know how many exactly.
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Once home, I paired the leftover crackers with my faux Boursin this past July. The combination of the fruitiness with the goat cheese was just perfect.

Really, these crackers aren’t extremely sweet, even with the dried fruits. But there is just enough sweetness that they really add something to a cheese pairing of any kind.

Because Whole Foods is a four-hour round trip for me, I decided to make these little guys myself. How hard could it be?!!

This was a first for me – I typically make yeasted breads myself to pair with cheeses, like my fruit and nut bread or olive bread.

But these are simply dense little quick breads, that were then sliced, and toasted. I couldn’t wait! Most of the fun was picking out the fruit and nut combination. I decided on sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, flax seeds, dried plums, dried cranberries, and cocoa nibs.

They turned out fabulously. I had to freeze them so I wouldn’t keep eating them! But you know I’ll be pulling them out of the freezer come the holidays…

Fruit and Nut Crackers

1 cup dried fruits – I used half cranberries and half diced plums
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/3 cup flax seeds
1/3 cup cocoa nibs
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups rice milk or dairy milk
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup rye flour
1 1/2 cups white flour

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease 3 little pans – mine were approximately 3 1/2″ by 7 1/2″ bi 2 1/2″ inside diameter.

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
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In a larger bowl, whisk the eggs. Add the rice milk.
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Then add the brown sugar and molasses and whisk well.
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Add the rye flour and whisk to combine.
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Then change to a wooden spoon and add the 1 1/2 cups of white flour. Stir just until combined.
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Add the bowl of fruits, seeds, and nuts, and stir just until even distributed.
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Divide the batter in between the three pans.

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Bake for approximately 25 minutes. They will look like this:
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Let the breads cool completely. Reduce the oven to 300 degrees.

Slice the breads as thinly as possible.
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Then place them on a cookie sheet and toast them in the oven for about 30 minutes.
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They will then look like this.
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Toast the remaining slices, if you can’t do them all at once in the oven. You should end up with approximately 68 crackers.
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crack2

Today I served the crackers alongside Cowgirl Creamery’s Red Hawk. It’s a washed rind cows’ milk cheese that’s really soft. It’s not as “pourable” as a French Époisses, but it’s still fabulously soft.
cowgirl

It was really good with these crackers.

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Nutrition Facts Widget Image

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. But I recently 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 like this recipe (I’ll post the link to the original recipe I discovered at the bottom of this post.) They involve fruits and nuts, and they’re rolled into balls.

So there’s no real sugar plum, but nonetheless this recipe was something I knew I had to play with. I just had to make Sugarplums! And, of course, I just can’t leave a recipe alone, so here’s is my version, and it’s quite delicious!

Sugarplums

6 ounces Brazilnuts
6 ounces dried plums
4 ounces dried apricots
4 ounces dried figs, stemmed
1/4 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds
1/4 teaspoon anise seed
1/4 teaspoon fennel seed
1/4 cup honey
Turbinado sugar or 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 be able to stick together.

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Place the mixture in a bowl and set aside.

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In a small bowl, sieve the powdered sugar with the cinnamon and cardamom. Then add the poppy seeds, 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, the powdered sugar mixture, and two latex gloves handy. Place the turbinado or the Swedish pearl sugar in a small bowl. I used both because I wanted to experiment with both sugars. Also have a rack handy on which to place the Sugarplums.

Add the honey and the powdered sugar mixture to the fruits and nuts. Put on the gloves and begin mixing everything together. Mix extremely well.

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Roll the sticky mixture into balls and dip in the sugar. Then place on the rack. Continue with the remaining fruits and nuts. This recipe made about 20 Sugarplums.

note: I really liked the look of the Swedish pearl sugar for the holidays.

another note: 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!

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Sugarplums Recipe

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