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How can visions of sugarplums dance in your head–when you have no idea what they are?! The original sugarplum (about the size of a prune-plum, thus the name) included a core of seeds–often caraway–coated with up to 12 separate layers of sugar syrup. Our version, loaded with rum-soaked fruit and toasted nuts, is quite a bit more interesting.
These bite-sized treats have at least a 3-month shelf life at room temperature, well wrapped. Like fruitcake (which they resemble quite a bit in taste), they stay moist, soft, and flavorful for weeks.
10 ounces dried fruit, chopped (a scant 2 cups chopped)*
3 tablespoons brandy or rum
*Use just one favorite dried fruit, or an imaginative combination. We like cranberries, apricots, pineapple, and a touch of crystallized ginger.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick, 2 ounces) butter
1/2 cup (3 3/4 ounces) brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice or 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 large egg
3/4 cup (3 1/4 ounces) King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) boiled cider*
2 tablespoons (1 3/8 ounces) light or dark corn syrup
1/2 cup chopped toasted pecans or walnuts**
*Or substitute light or dark corn syrup.
**Toast nuts in a preheated 350°F oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until they’re golden brown and smell roasted.
1/3 cup (2 3/8 ounces) Baker’s Special (extra-fine or superfine) sugar
1/2 teaspoon tart and sour flavor, optional
Chop the fruit fairly fine in a food processor. Combine with the liquor, cover, and let rest overnight. Or speed things up by microwaving the fruit and liquor (in a covered bowl) for about 1 minute, till the liquid is very hot. Leave the fruit covered, and let cool to room temperature.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets. Combine the butter, sugar, salt, spices, and baking powder, then beat in the egg, scraping the bowl. Add the flour, then the cider, syrup, fruit (with any remaining liquid), and nuts.
Drop the dough by teaspoonfuls (a teaspoon cookie scoop works well here) onto the prepared baking sheets. Bake for 12 minutes; the cookies will look soft, and will just be starting to brown on the bottom. Remove the cookies from the oven, and let them cool on the pan for 5 minutes.
While the cookies are cooling, place the sugar in a medium-sized plastic bag. If you’re using the tart and sour flavor, first combine the sugar and flavor in a mini food processor or blender, and blend till smooth.
While the cookies are still hot, gently squeeze them into balls. Place cookies in the bag, 6 or 8 at a time, and shake gently till they’re coated with sugar. Place on a rack to cool. Store airtight. If you’ve stored cookies for awhile, shake with sugar again just before serving, if desired.
Yield: about 4 dozen 1" sugarplums.
Variation: Want to add another layer of flavor (literally) to the sugarplums? After squeezing them into balls, roll them in a shallow pan of flavored syrup to coat; you’ll need about 1/3 cup of syrup. Try vanilla, pomegranate, white ginger, black currant, or the flavor of your choice. Place them on a rack to dry. When they’re still tacky but no longer wet, coat in sugar as directed above, and wrap well to store.