Fruit and Nut Balls, or you may know them as
Sugarplums, are made with a variety of pureed dried
fruits and nuts held together with a little honey (golden syrup or
corn syrup) and a splash of alcohol (or fruit juice). I think what makes them so
tempting is all the ways they can be decorated. You can roll them
in different sugars (white, brown, or powdered), unsweetened cocoa powder, dried
sweetened or unsweetened coconut, grated
chocolate, and/or finely chopped nuts. But I must admit that my favorite way is to dip them in
melted dark chocolate as I love the combination of dried fruits, nuts, and
chocolate. They store
very well, and while perfect for
Christmas giving, they also make an excellent snack to take along on picnics
or hikes when you need a quick boost of energy.
Today we are fortunate to have a wide selection of dried fruits to choose
from. Where once we were limited to dates and raisins, it now seems that
every fruit imaginable is available dried. The quality of these fruits is
also excellent which makes for delicious Fruit and Nut Balls. When you
look at this recipe, don't think it is cast in stone. You need a total of
2 cups (280 grams) of dried fruits so feel free to vary both the type and amounts
of the fruits you choose. While I have
used dried dates, figs, cherries, and papapa, you can just as easily use
other dried fruits like prunes, raisins, cranberries, mango, pineapple,
and kiwi. But there are a few things to keep in mind when choosing your
fruit. First, try to buy in bulk from a grocery store or natural food
store that has a high turnover. Not only will the fruit be fresher, but you
can see, smell, feel, and often taste the fruit to make sure it is
fresh and of high quality. Pre-packaged fruit can also be excellent but it
is harder to tell the quality of the fruit through the plastic bag. Make
sure to check the expiration date on the bag. Always
look for dried fruit that is plump, moist, and has good color. Never buy
fruit that is dried out or moldy. There is a debate about whether to
buy 'sulphured' or 'unsulphured' dried fruits. Some like to buy 'sulphured'
which means that it has been treated with a sulphur dioxide solution. This
preserves the fruit's bright color and makes the fruit very soft and moist. The downside is
that some people can taste the preservative and also feel flavor is
sacrificed for making the fruit look good.
To Toast Nuts:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Place the pecans and walnuts on a
baking sheet and bake for about 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly brown and
you can start to smell the nuts. Let cool and then coarsely chop.
Fruit and Nut Balls: Have
ready a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, wax paper, or aluminum foil. Place the nuts, dried fruits,
candied ginger (if using), and sugar in your food processor and pulse
until finely minced. Add the honey and just enough Grand Marnier or orange juice to bind the
Shape the mixture into 1
inch (2.5 cm) balls, pressing the mixture into the palms of your hands so the
ingredients stick together. Roll each ball in the desired topping(s) and place
on your baking sheet. Can be stored in the refrigerator, in an airtight container, for about a month.
They can also be frozen for several months.
If dipping in melted chocolate, chill the Fruit and Nut Balls in the
refrigerator for at least an hour. Then put 5 ounces (140 grams) of chopped dark
chocolate and 1 teaspoon of shortening or butter in a heatproof bowl, placed
over a saucepan of simmering water. Once melted, remove from heat and dip the
balls, one at a time, into the melted chocolate, making sure the entire ball is
coated with chocolate. Then, with a fork, remove the fruit balls from the melted
chocolate, allowing any excess chocolate to drip back into the bowl. Place on a
baking sheet. When all the balls have been dipped in the chocolate, place the
baking sheet in the refrigerator until the chocolate has set. Once the chocolate
has hardened, if you like, you can drizzle the tops of the balls
with melted milk or white chocolate (you will need about 1 ounce (30 grams)).
Makes about 30 - 1 inch
(2.5 cm) balls. Preparation time 45 minutes.
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