A few weeks ago I announced that the "I Made It" challenge for October would be nougat. This is something that I have always wanted to try, especially when I see images of perfect slabs of nougat online or fresh nougat bars in the shops. So when Tandy over at Lavender and Lime asked me to host the challenge this month I knew this was my chance to challenge myself to master this classic sweet.
Making nougat wasn't as difficult or time consuming as I thought, although admittedly it's probably not something I'd make regularly - just for special occasions. I started by referring to my sugar cookery notes from college for some inspiration, did a few tests, and through trial and error created this final recipe. I have successfully made nougat a few times using the formula below - I hope you'll also have good results using it!
You could attempt this recipe without a sugar thermometer, but ideally you should have one to ensure that your sugar syrup boils to the right temperature and you don't end up with toffee-style nougat that won't set. I hadn't used my sugar thermometer in a long, long time, and had to dig it out of the cupboard and calibrate it before I started. (It's probably a good idea to do this if you haven't used yours for a while either.) Also, be sure to prepare your tray and have all of your ingredients ready and lined up before you start! Making nougat requires your full attention, and I don't advise you attempt it when you're likely to be distracted.
One of the hardest parts of this challenge (for me), was deciding what flavour to make! There really are no limits to the things you can include. In the end I decided to keep it simple with a classic flavour combination of nuts and honey. I am rather keen to try chocolate nougat too - but I'll save that for another day. And I'm sure my dentist will thank me!
PECAN, ALMOND & HONEY NOUGAT
Makes a 16cm x 25cm tray
2 sheets rice paper
2 cups castor sugar
1/2 cup glucose
3 tbsp honey
1/2 cup water
2 egg whites, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla paste
50g butter, cubed and softened
1 cup whole raw almonds
1 cup pecan nuts, roughly chopped
Step 1.) Line a 16 cm x 25 cm tray with plastic wrap. Cut both rice paper sheets to fit the tray. Line the base of the tray with one piece of rice paper and keep the other aside.
Step 2.) Reserve 2 tablespoons of the castor sugar and set aside. Place the remaining castor sugar in a large pot with the glucose, honey and water. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush down any sugar crystals from the sides of the pot.
Step 3.) While the sugar mixture is boiling place the egg whites in the bowl of a freestanding mixer and whisk until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 2 tablespoons of castor sugar that you set aside earlier while whisking continuously. Continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Whisk in the vanilla paste.
Step 4.) Boil the sugar mixture until it reaches 140°C and is amber in colour. (This is also known as "hard crack stage", the syrup will become brittle and crack easily if dropped into cold water.)
Step 5.) Gradually pour the hot sugar syrup into the egg whites while beating continuously, until all the syrup has been incorporated. Add the butter a few cubes at a time until everything is mixed together.
Step 6.) Working quickly, add the almonds and pecans to the mixture and fold through by hand.
Step 7.) Scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and cover with the other sheet of rice paper. Flatten the top of the paper - I find it helps to use a smaller baking tray pressed onto the top to get a nice, even top. Cover and set aside in a cool, dry place for 8 hours / overnight to set.
Step 8.) Lift the nougat out of the tin and use a sharp knife to cut into bars or blocks. Store in an airtight container in the fridge and bring to room temperature before serving.