Given another lifetime I would be a confectioner I'm sure. I first made nougat, or should I say attempted to make nougat when I was around 18 years old. An Australian Womens' Weekly cookbook of my mum's had the recipe and I thought I'd make it for Christmas gifts. I had been baking for many years by this stage and thought it wold be like any other recipe, just fine... but it was far from fine...
Working with sugar and the science behind that has taken many many years to work out and understand. The recipe said I could test the right temperature by "just dropping a bit onto a cold glass of water and checking the consistency" This turned out to be terrible advice for a novice sugar worker and buying a sugar thermometer was the best investment I made on my journey to perfecting nougat making.
After buying all the ingredients and special paper I followed the recipe which for anyone who has made nougat knows, requires time, attention & patience. Pouring the sticky mess into a tin I was assured it would set, I would cut it and wrap it and gift it. What followed was a sticky, flowing mess of sugar that I desperately wanted to salvage. I cut and scooped and wrapped up each bit and stuck in the freezer in the hope it would resemble something like what I had creatively visualised.
As you might guess the freezer did not miraculously change the structure of the sugar, the truth was I had not taken the sugar to a high enough temperature so it was never going to set! Big lesson learned and I can still see the sticky mess in mum's freezer!!
Fast forward many many years I have tried various recipes, researched and understood how sugar works and what is required of it to be able to hold its form when cut and what happens if you take it too high and then can't cut it... oh so much to learn.
When I started KARMME and introduced the Tote Bag collection, the lighter colour leather I had chosen reminded me instantly of the almond nougat I had been making as gifts over the years. The colour of the dark chocolate swirls and roasted almonds was so much like the creamy nude leather I was working with.
And so, Almond Nougat became the name of this bag, and still when I make nougat I see the leather in the colours.
Would you like the recipe?
This is what I have been using recently. I have trialled many many recipes over the years. The basis of this is from Gourmet Traveller, Gaz, a Persian version, Flour & Stone's Cookbook by Nadine Ingram also has a great recipe. My tweaks are below.
A few things you must have for a successful outcome.
1. Time, allow a good hour uninterrupted, I like to do this at night when everyone in bed or watching tv, no one to ask me to do anything.
2. Wafer Paper, it's an edible paper that means the nougat doesn't stick, it can be purchased online or sometimes you can find at specialty European food shops.
3. A sugar thermometer. I have narrowed my temps down to within a degree or two to get the perfect chew in my opinion. This requires a thermometer for accuracy. This is the type I use.
4. Really good quality honey. It's the hero of this delicacy, source some local honey, I try to avoid supermarket mass produced ones.
5. A very strong stand mixer. You can't do this with hand beaters. I have a 18 year old Kitchen Aid, a very worthwhile investment if you want to do more of this type of baking. Someone told me the Thermomix does a good nougat, I have not tried, but please let me know if you have.
6. Read the whole recipe first and have all ingredients ready.
Ok my version, tried and tested and loved by many!
- 150 gm roasted almonds chopped roughly (buy roasted or roast them in oven)
- 150 gm dried sour cherries, roughly chopped (add tartness to cut through sweet)
- 120 gms dark bitter chocolate (70% is best, chopped and put in fridge)
- 50 gm egg white (from 2-3 eggs), at room temperature
- 380 gm caster sugar
- 120 gm liquid glucose (microwave this a bit on low speed to loosen up
- 230 gm honey (good quality, nice taste)
1. Preheat the oven to 110C. Scatter the almonds and dried cherries onto a baking tray and put them into the oven to warm while you make the nougat. It's important that the nuts and dried fruit are warm when added to the nougat mixture, or it will seize up and be unworkable.
2. Prepare all the ingredients: put the egg white into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk; put the sugar, liquid glucose and 100ml water into a small saucepan; put the honey into another small saucepan. Line a 20cm square baking tray with edible rice paper, shiny side down.
3. Over a medium heat begin heating the honey. Also start to heat sugar/glucose mix keeping an eye on the sugar dissolving, stir a little then once boiling don't stir any more. Increase heat to medium. Keep an eye on the honey and when it reaches around 110C on thermometer begin whisking the eggwhite on medium-high speed.
4. Continue cooking the honey until it reaches 120C (3-4 minutes), by which time the eggwhite should have reached the stiff-peak stage. Turn off the mixer and take the honey off the heat.
5.Keep an eye on the sugar glucose it should be starting to bubble now, put thermometer in and swirl gently but don't stir.
6. Meanwhile, turn the electric mixer back on to a low speed and mix the hot honey into the eggwhite., pouring slowly into the egg white whilst whisking. When incorporated, increase the speed to high. Continue whisking until the boiling sugar syrup reaches 158C (15 minutes). Keep going, don't be tempted to take off heat earlier, remember the sugar structure needs to change to hard crack. Slow the speed of the mixer down again and pour in the boiling sugar syrup slowly and carefully until incorporated. Increase the speed of the mixer again and whisk for 3 minutes. Turn off the mixer and, working quickly, take the warm fruit and nuts out of the oven and tip them into the nougat. Add chocolate from the fridge. Having it cold means little bits will stay solid rather than all melting, creating interesting textures.
7. Fold in as quickly as you can, then scrape into the prepared baking tray. Smooth out the nougat with a large, strong spatula to a rough rectangle, about 3cm deep. The nougat will be very stiff to work with, but try to make the surface as even as possible; use a rolling pin if you like. Cover with a second sheet of rice paper or baking paper. Rest overnight, turn out then cut into portions using a hot wet knife. Nougat will keep stored in an airtight container for 3 months, humidity will make the sugar dissolve and it will go soft. Don't put in fridge. Wrap in cellophane or brown paper or waxed paper, tied a ribbon around it and you have beautiful homemade treats.
Please get in touch if you have any questions, I hope you enjoy giving it a go, I'm sure you'll enjoy eating it!
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