As many of you know, I have a thing for reading cookbooks and can lose hours taking notes of all the recipes I'd like to make, planning menus and just overall perusing. I'm not ashamed to admit that when I see recipes with dried fruit as the predominant ingredient, I usually turn the page. Prune whip? I'm so not on it. Stewed figs? I'm already at the end of the book, sorry. Even date nut bread doesn't move my heart.
However, when I saw a recipe for Sweet Dreams Sweet Meats in A Harvest of Healing Foods, I was all over it. Mostly because of my Victorian holiday association, Dickens and all that. Plus, these are touted to be a perfect bedtime snack when you just need a little something-something if you've eaten an early dinner.
I won't list the recipe because I completely bastardized it, and I can't list exact proportions because I don't work that way, but really, even the most novice of all cooks can figure this one out.
Steam about 8 ounces of dried fruit for a few minutes to soften (I used prunes, sour cherries and apricots) and put in a food processor. Add appx 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, a couple of tablespoons chopped nuts, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch of a winter baking spice like cardamom, clove, cinnamon etc. Pulse the mixture and add whatever else feels right. I added black sesame seeds and a tiny pinch of pumpkin pie spice.
Refrigerate for ten minutes so the sweet meats will be less sticky and easy to form. Now, this is where it gets interesting. I recently discovered a spice shop in our area The Spice & Tea Exchange. It's a locally owned franchise and they hand blend on site. I was enchanted by the salts, teas and of course the spice blends, but what really blew me away was the sugar. Jars of spice and fruit infused sugars. I picked up tiny taste packets of ginger, espresso and tangerine. WOW!
The espresso is intense. Can you imagine it around the rim of a cup of hot chocolate? Or what about the ginger around the rim of a glass of rosewater lemonade?
I decided to roll my sweet meats in infused sugars and unsweetened dutch milled cocoa. You can roll them or form a loaf and cut slices. It's up to you.
Afterward, I wrapped mine in candy wrappers and put them in fridge. It's so nice to know that I have a mostly healthy sweet treat on hand, and really...I didn't coat them too heavily with the sugar.
Dried fruit can be a little high on the natural sugar side, but the vitamins and minerals are highly concentrated. You can add anything to these...coconut, a hazelnut in the center, different extracts...orange would be nice and even chopped dried fruit to give it more texture. I was glad Mark is in Eau Claire this week because I would have had to endure some South Park chef and sweet breads jokes. This is a snack for adults. :)
Oh boy, it's that time of year again.