Tu Bishvat is the perfect occasion to make candy. I don’t mean the kind of
sweets that are loaded with sugar or butter, but confections that are as natural
as possible – composed mainly of fruits and nuts.
Uncooked sweets, which
happen to be in vogue due to the popularity of raw foods, are ideal for Tu
Bishvat. They are simple to make and require no candy
Recently, I discussed making sweets with an Indian woman I
met at the store. She had two items in her cart: dates and walnuts, and told me
they were all she needed to prepare a favorite family sweet. She chops the dates
and walnuts together in the food processor, using about equal amounts of each
but adjusting the quantities according to the confection’s consistency; she
wants enough dates to hold the mixture together without it becoming too sticky.
Sometimes she adds cardamom or pistachios but she emphasized that those are
optional. To shape the candies, she rolls the mixture in a long rope and cuts it
in small pieces which she keeps in the refrigerator.
All sorts of natural
candies can be made this way from a variety of dried fruits and nuts. You can
add any flavoring you like, from sweet spices to citrus zest to liquid
flavorings such as wine, liqueur, rose water and fruit juice. As candies go,
they are quite healthy.
Home cooks have used this basic formula to come
up with all sorts of tasty confections. One, called date nut halva balls, which
is prepared across North Africa, is made of dates ground with other dried fruit,
then mixed with chopped almonds and flavored with lemon zest and
Penny Wantuck Eisenberg, author of Light Jewish Holiday
Desserts, uses dates and walnuts to make Iraqi date balls flavored with orange
juice and cinnamon.
Instead of rolling the balls the customary way in
ground walnuts alone, she combines the nuts with crumbs of light cookies to
reduce the fat.
To make almond, fig and date balls, Sonia Uvezian, author
of The Cuisine of Armenia, grinds together equal amounts of these components and
flavors the sweet with cinnamon and a little sugar.
serving them as an after-dinner treat with a glass of brandy or
Cooking fruit with nuts is another technique for making simple
candies. Jack Santa Maria, author of Indian Sweet Cookery, makes peach toffee by
cooking peaches with sugar, sliced almonds and cardamom to a thick mixture,
which he enriches with a little ghee (clarified butter). After cooling the
mixture in a greased dish, he cuts it in squares.
Tomato toffee is made
the same way, with cooked tomatoes (tomatoes are a fruit, after all!) and grated
coconut instead of the almonds.
To make fruity sesame balls, writes Santa
Maria, Indians mix roasted sesame seeds with ground roasted peanuts, fried
raisins, ground pistachios, jaggery (unrefined cane sugar), ghee and
Instead of being blended with fruit, the nuts can be used as a
stuffing. For his almondstuffed dates, Edmond Zeitoun, author of 250 Recettes
Classiques de Cuisine Tunisienne (250 classic recipes of Tunisian cuisine),
makes a cooked stuffing of ground almonds, egg yolk, orange flower water and
lemon syrup. He makes a slit in one side of each date, removes the pit and
replaces it with the stuffing.
Then he dips the stuffed dates in syrup
and rolls them in crystallized sugar.
To enrich their nutty fruity
treats, some like to add chocolate. Elaina Love, a chef for Navitas Naturals, a
California company specializing in organic foods, makes raw cherry chocolate
truffles from ground cacao nibs pureed with dried cherries, cherry extract and
dates, and rolls them in cacao powder. Sometimes she flavors the treats with
fresh ginger or adds chopped walnuts or almond butter.
peanut butter is a favorite food to turn into nutty fruity sweets. Ken Haedrich,
author of Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family, makes peanut butter balls with
raisins, honey, cocoa and cinnamon, rolled in coconut.
(The recipe is
below.) Oatmeal is another ingredient Americans add to nut-and-fruit treats. A
popular technique is to heat milk with sugar and butter and then to stir in
nuts, dried fruit and uncooked oats, either quick or rolled; the mixture is then
dropped by spoonfuls onto waxed paper and cooled. Some add cocoa or peanut
butter to these oatmeal-based candies. Using both is apparently a winning
Peanut butter and cocoa were included in Cynthia’s macadamia
coconut peanut butter chocolate balls, which won a prize in the holiday sweets
contest held by Sprouts Farmers Market in the western US.
You might want
to add some of the following sweets to your Tu Bishvat fruit and nut
platter.Faye Levy is the author of
Chocolate Sensations and, in
DATE NUT HALVA BALLS
This candy is popular from Egypt to Morocco and is very
simple to make. It’s ideal when you want a speedy Tu Bishvat sweet.
10 to 12 servings
1⁄4 cup pecans or walnuts
1⁄3 cup almonds
110 gr. (4 ounces) pitted dates
110 gr. (4 ounces) dried apricots
1⁄2 cup raisins
1⁄2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 to 2 Tbsp. orange or lemon juice or water,
1 to 2 tsp. finely grated lemon zest
1 to 2 Tbsp. sugar (optional)
Finely chop pecans and almonds in food processor. Transfer to a bowl. Halve dates and remove any
pits or pit fragments. Add dates, apricots, raisins and cinnamon to processor
and grind until fairly smooth.
Mix with nuts. If mixture is too dry to
come together, gradually add a little juice or water. Stir in grated lemon zest.
Usually the dessert is sweet enough, but taste the mixture and add sugar if you
Roll fruit mixture between your palms into small balls of about 2
to 2.5 cm (3⁄4 to 1 inch) diameter. Serve in candy papers.SAM’S PEANUT
This recipe is from Feeding the Healthy Vegetarian Family. Author
Ken Haedrich named them for his youngest child and writes, “It’s the perfect kid
recipe: They love all of the ingredients and there’s nothing to cook and it
isn’t so fussy or precise that the kids can’t do all the measuring. And then
they get to roll them, the fun part.”
Makes about 20 3-cm (11⁄4-inch)
1 cup salted natural peanut butter, smooth or
1⁄3 cup mild honey, such as clover or orange blossom
2 tsp. carob powder or unsweetened cocoa
big pinch of cinnamon
2⁄3 cup raisins
2 Tbsp. plus 1⁄2 cup unsweetened
shredded coconut or sweetened
If you are starting with a new jar of peanut
butter, make sure you stir it well to mix any separated oil back in.
large mixing bowl, mix the peanut butter, honey, carob powder and cinnamon with
a wooden spoon until blended. Stir in the raisins and 2 tablespoons of the
coconut. Refrigerate the mixture for 1 to 2 hours if possible.
spoon, scoop up small heaps of the mixture and gently roll them into 3-cm.
(11⁄4- inch) balls. It makes rolling easier if, once you have a rough ball, you
roll the ball in coconut. Roll the balls in coconut a second time, then arrange
them on a plate. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate the balls for
at least 30 minutes before serving.