Dreaming of sugarplums

These fruit specialties conjure the magic of the holidays

We drove past glittering, windswept hills on our way to my son’s first “Nutcracker” show.

We stopped at a gas station for salty snacks and a giant cinnamon roll to share as we watched the icy ocean stream past the window.

On the way, we talked about ballet and my fond memories of whispering in the wings with my fellow dancers waiting for the cannon march or the flowers’ waltz to start.

I told him about the first time I went to see it, and how I dreamed about tutus and sparkles for weeks, and I was so hopeful that he would be equally impressed.

In the theater he wanted to sit next to Grandma, but I was close enough to hear his delight as the snowflakes twirled on pointe, his nervous questioning if the Rat King would return, and his enthusiastic applause at the end of every dance.

A two-hour show is a lot to ask of a just-turned 4-year-old, but he stayed engaged throughout, bright blue eyes glued to the stage. He loved the drummers and the silly mice and the girls who flipped and tumbled and leapt through the air. We drove home through the darkness and when I laid him down to bed late, I hoped he would dream of sugarplums. I shut his door behind me and twirled as I put the house to sleep.

Sugarplums are a treat that became popular in England around the 17th century and were usually associated with the wealthy because sugar was so expensive at the time.

The treats originally were just coriander or cardamom seeds coated in hardened sugar until they formed an oval or “plum” shape. Sugarplums now are made of toasted nuts and dried fruit with spices and honey, rolled in sparkling sugar.

These little bites are very sweet and heavily spiced, perfect with hot tea after a long ski in twilight.



1 cup pitted dates

1 cup dried figs

1 cup dried apricots

½ cup toasted walnuts

½ cup toasted hazelnuts

½ cup toasted almonds

2 tablespoons chia seeds

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground clove

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

½ teaspoon ground allspice

¼ cup (give or take) honey

Course sugar (or even glittery sprinkles) for rolling


Combine all the ingredients except honey in the bowl of your food processor.

Pulse until the large fruits are broken up, then blend until the mixture is a course paste.

Dump the mixture into a large bowl and drizzle on half the honey.

Use a rubber spatula to mix the honey into the paste, then check to see if you can roll a ball that holds together. If it will form a ball, don’t add the rest of the honey. If it doesn’t, add just a half a teaspoon at a time until it does.

Roll the paste into small balls — they have a powerful flavor, so large bites might be overwhelming. Aim for them to be about the size of gumballs.

Store in the refrigerator and serve chilled.

You can also freeze them flat on a tray and transfer to a ziptop bag. They will keep frozen for up to three months.