Nougat has always been a mystery food. I’d see it in the store, love the look of it, but never think about making it. Then I had the most amazing nougat at Baker D. Chirico, in St. Kilda, in Melbourne, Australia about eight years ago. It was soft and with delicious honey notes and nuts. It had a touch of chewiness—with no possibility of pulling out your fillings. It made me curious about how it’s made, but I decided it was magic—you ever do that?
I filed the memory in my mind. An Aussie friend of mine brought me the Baker D. Chirico nougat when she visited me in New York five years ago. And I think that’s the last time I had any of the good stuff.
When I recently saw a Belgian nougat shaped like a cake topped with fruit at Sahadi’s on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, I decided I had to try it. Plus it’s gluten free, so it fits my new low gluten lifestyle choice.
I’d heard nougat can be very temperamental to make with horror stories of it getting too hard to get into the pan. The process reminded me of making marshmallows a little, but the nougat is much thicker. YOU MUST USE A STAND MIXER! Done even try it without one. Mine was groaning when I whipped it up. I turned it off after getting scared that I was going to blow the motor mixing in the nuts. Also you need a dry day. Apparently, nougat will not fluff if it’s too humid out.
My batch was easy enough to scrape out of the bowl into the pan. Pressing the fruit on top made it easier to distribute the nougat evenly in the pan. At first, I thought it was too high, but I cut into loaves which were nice and dramatic when I served it. I split one of the loaves lengthwise so I wind up with a a raspberry, blueberry layer and another layer that I rolled in more nuts.
The nougat rocked. At first, it seemed to be just a touch too soft. I knew that was much better than too hard, but after a week or so it dried out a bit. I think I would leave it exposed to air next time when I first make it.
I studied a bunch of different recipes, but I wound up using this recipe from Kitchn, but I followed the comments in the blog post and added my own riff of a packaged each of freeze dried raspberries and blueberries from Trader Joes. You could use dried fruit instead of freeze dried, but I love how the colors, textures and tartness of the freeze dried fruit play against the nougat.
Below in italics are jayaymeye’s notes that I sorta followed to make this recipe.
WHAT I DID:
Yes, weigh everything for more accuracy. I cut down the nuts a little to just two pounds, not one kilo, although I now think the more nuts the better. I would use salted pistachios next time. I’m a big fan of sweet-salty combination.
Totally agreed about melting the sugar in water, although I used 1/2 a cup of water to make it easier.
I did not use a double boiler for the melted sugar or the honey/sugar mixture. It’s much faster in a heavy bottomed pot on direct heat. YOU MUST WATCH IT! (even though it get’s a little boring) I cooked sugar to 263 degrees like she suggests. And the honey-sugar mixture to 285 degrees. The temperature ranges in the recipe were way too wide. Remember to take the mixture off the heat as soon as it just reaches the temperature because the temperature will keep going up if you don’t.
I followed her suggestions when I beat the egg whites, but I did not beat it as long because I was worried that my stand mixer motor was going to break. I did more like ten minutes, then add the powdered sugar and then the nuts. I didn’t totally incorporate the nuts. I kind of squished them in as I was moving the mixture into the pan.
I would make this recipe again. The flavor was GREAT! I used a wildflower honey and forgot the vanilla. So it will be even better the next time.
You can switch out some of the nuts and use dried fruits or different nuts. It’s a very flexible candy. I think it would be BEAUTIFUL with dried cranberries, chopped apricots, pistachios and almonds. I’d add candied ginger which would look and taste great in the nougat as well.
The mixture was soft enough that you could make nougat balls, then roll them in fruits and/or toasted chopped nuts. If you put each ball in a cellophane bag, tied it with a bow, you could hang them on your Xmas tree!
NOTES FROM THE BLOG COMMENTS AT KITCHN
Here’s Kitchn’s A recipe from Provence: Nougat de Montlimar
According to jayaymeye: I’ve made torrone (Italian version of nougat) several times now, but wanted to try this recipe to see if it could produce a more consistent result. That said, I found the instructions and procedure of this recipe quite flawed. If I did not have previous experience making torrone, I don’t think my recipe would have turned out at all. It did turn out, however with some significant modifications/changes:
First, I weighed everything; it seems that many of the volume measurements given are off, sometimes by a fair amount. This seems especially apparent with the nuts. 2.2 pounds of nuts is A LOT.
Second, it’s very difficult to melt sugar without overcooking/caramelizing it without having added *water* to dissolve first. I added about 1/4 cup of water to the sugar to dissolve it.
250-265 is a BIG range for melted sugar; should this be 260-265? I cooked to 263.
The recipe says to cook the honey/liquid sugar in a bain marie/double boiler. It doesn’t mention that this would take an exceptionally long time—probably 1-2 hours. As such, I took the honey and added melted sugar mixture out of the bain marie and cooked it to 285 over direct heat.
The eat the sugar/egg mixture needs to be beaten until very cool—about 15 minutes, not 6-8. I then added the powdered sugar completely first, then nuts. I think it’s the powdered sugar that makes this recipe tighter and maybe more forgiving than some others without.
My final results yielded soft torrone that did not ooze (a problem I’ve had with other recipes, albeit intermittently).
Too, if you’re not comfortable with candy making, I’d say this is a recipe to avoid. It’s not easy and takes a long time/a lot of preparation. These are expensive ingredients to have to throw out due to recipe failure.