Blog Checking Lines: The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.
That’s right, it was my great pleasure to host the Daring Bakers’ Challenge this month! I’ve been baking since I was a kid, but I also have been making candy for years and it remains one of my personal challenges. With that in mind, I decided to choose nougat as the Daring Bakers’ challenge for March.
A friend of mine who often makes it for Passover first introduced me to nougat. I had never had it before and had only heard about the soft and fluffy kind of nougat that shows up inside candy bars. This nougat was completely different – chewy and filled with nuts and dried fruits. It’s addictive stuff! Since then, I’ve been on a quest to become comfortable making it myself.
Nougat is an aerated candy made from sugar, honey, egg whites and nuts. It’s closest cousins are the marshmallow and divinity, though the texture is much chewier than either of those candies. This type of nougat has been around since the 16th century (according to Larousse Gastronomique). The most well known nougats are the French Montélimar nougat and the Italian Torrone nougat. Montélimar nougat contains at least 30% nuts and includes pistachios as well as almonds. Italian Torrone and Spanish Turrón are similar, typically containing almonds and sometimes other nuts. The cooking temperature and the quantity of sugar determines the texture of the finished product. Nougat can be chewy, soft and tender to hard and brittle.
The flavors, textures and add-ins may vary, but the process of making nougat is fairly standard. Traditionally, nougat is made by adding cooked honey syrup to egg whites that have been whipped. Nuts are usually folded in and occasionally dried or candied fruits or citrus zest are added. The mixture is poured out onto edible wafer paper and smoothed into a block, which is allowed to set before cutting. Nougat is most commonly white, but can also be flavored. To really dress it up, it can be dipped in chocolate.
I had a lot of fun hosting this challenge and I hope everyone who participated had a great time too!
Recipe Source: Chocolates and Confections by Peter P. Greweling
Servings: one 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) slab
Prep time: approx. 45 minutes
Cook time: approx. 30-45 minutes
Cool time: approx. 45 minutes
4 sheets edible wafer paper, 8×11 inches (20×28 cm) (optional, see Recipe Notes)
For the Meringue:
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ cup (60 ml) (50 gm) (1¾ oz) granulated sugar
½ teaspoon (3 gm) cream of tartar
For the Syrup:
1½ cups (360 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) honey (preferably light in color and flavor)
3 cups (720 ml) (600 gm) (21 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) (170 gm) (6 oz) light corn syrup
½ cup (120 ml) water
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (25 gm) (1 oz) cocoa butter, melted (see Recipe Notes)
5 cups (1.2 litre) (680 gm) (24 oz) toasted whole unblanched almonds
Edible wafer paper is nice to have if you’re giving nougat as gifts as it helps with the stickiness issue. However, it’s not essential. If you can’t find it, grease the pan and then line it with parchment paper. Grease the parchment as well. You should probably wrap each cut piece individually to keep them from sticking together.
Fat (cocoa butter in this case) is added to nougat to give it a shorter texture and cleaner bite. I’ve tried the recipe without it and it still comes out tasting good, it’s just chewier. I haven’t tried any other fat in the mixture, but let me know if you do! Any fat added to nougat should be one that is solid at room temperature.
1. Place the toasted almonds in a heat safe bowl and put in an oven at 250°F/121°C until needed.
2. Line the bottom of a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) pan with wafer paper, cutting it to fit. I like to put plastic wrap or parchment under the wafer paper just for extra insurance that I’ll be able to get the nougat out of the pan.
3. Combine the egg whites, sugar and cream of tartar for the meringue in a 4.5 or 5 quart (about 5 litre) mixer bowl fitted with a whip attachment but do not begin whipping.
4. Heat the honey in a small saucepan or in the microwave until nearly boiling
5. Combine the remaining ingredients for the syrup (sugar, corn syrup, water and vanilla bean) in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan.
6. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil and then lower the heat and boil for 3 minutes, covered.
7. Remove the lid and attach the candy thermometer. Continue to cook uncovered on high heat without stirring until the syrup reaches 290°F/143°C.
8. When the sugar mixture reaches 290°F/143°C, start whipping the egg whites on high speed and move the sugar mixture off the heat and slowly pour the heated honey into the sugar mixture. The mixture will foam up initially.
9. Put the pan back on the heat and continue cooking until the mixture again reaches 290°F/143°C.
10. Remove from the heat and use tongs to take out the vanilla bean pods.
11. Slowly pour the hot syrup into the whipping whites by letting it run down the inside of the mixer bowl. Don’t pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse.
12. Whip on high speed for 3 minutes.
13. Add the cocoa butter and whip JUST until the mixture is smooth again. Do not over mix. If you have a 4.5 quart (4.5 litre) mixer like I do, you may need to initially lower the speed of the mixer while pouring in the cocoa butter as it will try to slop out.
14. Remove the bowl from the mixer and dump in the hot nuts from the oven. Mix quickly with a heat-safe spatula until the almonds are evenly distributed.
15. Immediately pour the hot nougat into the prepared pan, on top of the wafer paper. Cover the top of the nougat with more wafer paper and press to smooth and even out the nougat.
16. Let the nougat cool at room temperature until just warm to the touch, about 45 minutes. Don’t let it go too long or it will be very difficult to get out of the pan and difficult to cut. You want it to still be a little flexible when you remove it but not so soft that it loses its shape.
17. Pry the nougat out of the pan with a spatula and dump it out onto a cutting board. Trim the edges and cut the nougat with an oiled knife into the size pieces you want.
18. Wrap the nougat individually or store at room temperature in an airtight container. The texture of the nougat will soften a bit after a few days, especially if you have added dried fruits in with the nuts.
Recipe Source: Adapted from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
Servings: one 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) slab
Prep time: approx. 45 minutes
Cook time: approx. 30 – 45 minutes
Cool time: 24 hours
Vegetable cooking spray, for the pan
For the syrup:
2 ½ cups (600 ml) (500 gm) (18 oz) granulated sugar
½ cup (120 ml) water
¼ cup (60 ml) (85 gm) (3 oz) light corn syrup
For the Meringue:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon (200 ml) (250 gm) (9 oz) clover honey
2 tablespoons (30 ml) (45 gm) (1½ oz) corn syrup
3 oz (80 gm) 100% chocolate, very finely chopped
7 oz (200 gm) 72% chocolate, very finely chopped
About ¾ cup (180 ml) (80 gm) (3 oz) dried fruits, such as cranberries, raisins or chopped apricots
½ cup (120 ml) (60 gm) (2 oz) pistachios, toasted
1 ½ cups (360 ml) (200 gm) (7 oz) almonds, toasted
1-1/3 cups (320 ml) (175 gm) (6 oz) hazelnuts, toasted
This recipe makes very thick nougat if you use the 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) pan. If you prefer thinner nougat, use a bigger pan or spread the nougat out on a lined baking sheet.
The original recipe called for a cooking temperature of 320°F/160°C. However, my climate is dry and the first batch I made came out was hard to cut, so I lowered the temperature to get a texture I was happy with. If you live in a humid climate or like harder nougat, feel free to use the original temperature.
1. Spray a 9×9 inch (23×23 cm) baking pan with vegetable spray and line it with parchment paper. Spray the parchment paper as well. Set aside.
2. Place the toasted nuts in a heat safe bowl and put in a preheated very slow oven at 250°F/121°C/gas mark ½ until needed.
3. Combine the sugar and ¼ cup (85 gm) (3 oz) of corn syrup with the water in a 2 quart (2 litre) saucepan and set it aside.
4. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whip attachment. Do not start to mix yet.
5. Combine the honey and 2 tablespoon (40 gm) (1½ oz) of corn syrup in a small saucepan (the honey mixture will foam up and grow to about 3 times the starting size so make sure your pot isn’t so small that it will overflow) on medium-high heat. Attach a candy thermometer. Start beating the egg whites on low speed.
6. When the honey reaches 240°F/115°C, raise the speed of the mixer to high and beat the egg whites until they hold stiff peaks, watching the honey mixture until it reaches 248°F/120°C. As soon as the honey reaches 248°F/120°C, put the pan with the sugar mixture on medium-high heat as you remove the honey from the heat.
7. While beating the whites on high, slowly stream the hot honey mixture down the inside of the mixing bowl and into the whites. Do not pour it directly on the whites or they may collapse. Keep beating on medium-high speed.
8. As the sugar mixture starts to bubble, dip a pastry brush in water and brush the sides to remove any sugar crystals. Alternately, you can put on a lid on the pot for a couple of minutes once it’s bubbling and let steam do the job for you.
9. Attach the candy thermometer. When the sugar mixture reaches 310°F/154°C, turn the mixer back up to high and slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a slow stream down the inside of the bowl. Do not pour the syrup directly on the whites or they may collapse.
10. Once the sugar syrup is incorporated, continue beating for 3-5 minutes until the whites feel warm, not piping hot (if your mixer bowl is metal, the bowl will still be hot even when the whites have cooled some).
11. Add both chocolates to the bowl and beat on high until the chocolate is combined. The heat from the egg mixture will melt the chocolate.
12. With a spatula, fold in the dried fruits and warm nuts.
13. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and spread it in an even layer.
14. Let it sit for 24 hours at room temperature, uncovered.
15. Invert the nougat onto a cutting board and remove the parchment paper. Cut as desired.
16. Store in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. The texture of the nougat will soften a little after a couple of days.