A couple of weeks ago I mentioned The Daring Kitchen and that I was participating in their challenges; both cooking and baking. Well, this week the Baking challenge was due and it was amazing! 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.
OK, I admit my idea of nougat was the chewy filling in a Milky Way Bar (which, by the way, isn’t half bad), but in fact it’s an entirely different thing and, besides my homemade caramels, was the best candy I’ve ever made. The classic nougat is full of almonds and dried fruits, but we had license to change it up and be creative. The recipe Rebecca provided had pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and various dried fruits, but since we still had a bumper crop of pecans from last fall, I decided to use those along with Montmorency dried cherries, local honey and salted pistachios.
The process was quite an experience and involved multitasking, at which I don’t excel. I planted myself in the kitchen and got all of the ingredients organized and all of the utensils, pots and pans ready. I was thankful for my small kitchen because I didn’t have to run from the mixer to the stovetop since they’re so close together. It was lots of fun, a little stressful, and I ended up with cooked sugar and honey in my hair, but it was well worth it! When I tasted this awesome chewy chocolaty nougat, full of nuts and fruit, my eyeballs went into the back of my head for a second…. it was incredible!
*****A lot of work, but well worth it! This is my version adapted from Rebecca’s, which originated from Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard. Awesome flavor and texture – very rich and addictive.
2 1/2 C. granulated sugar
1/2 C. water
1/4 C. light corn syrup
For the Meringue:
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 C. plus 1 tbsp. clover honey
2 tbsp. corn syrup
7 oz. 72% chocolate, very finely chopped
1 C. dried Montmorency cherries
1 C. salted pistachios, toasted
1 C. pecan halves, toasted
1. Spray a 9×9″ baking pan with vegetable spray and line it with parchment paper and up the sides of the pan. Spray the parchment paper as well. Set aside.
2. Place the toasted nuts in a heat-safe bowl and put in a preheated very low oven at 250 degrees until needed.
3. Combine the sugar and 1/4 C. of corn syrup with the water in a 2 quart 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 tbsp. 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 degrees, 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 degrees. As soon as the honey reaches 248, 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 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 degrees, turn the mixture 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 the chocolate 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 cherries 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.
Tips and Stuff:
Where do I begin? Wear an apron. Be careful with the cooked syrups – no children or pets allowed in the kitchen while you’re making this.
A stand mixer is required – you can’t do this with a hand mixer.
Rebecca’s recipe also had 3 oz 100% chocolate, but I couldn’t find any. She also had 3/4 C dried fruits (cranberries, raisins or chopped apricots), 1 1/2 C toasted almonds and 1 1/3 C hazelnuts. That’s a lot of nuts to me, but that’s the point of nougat.
The 9×9 pan made very thick nougat as you can see by the picture. You can use a larger pan to make thinner nougat.
Be sure and follow the instruction about pouring the syrups on the side of the bowl and not directly on top of the egg whites so they won’t deflate.
I turned the heat up quite a bit on the sugar mixture to get it up to 310 degrees – carefully though or it will burn.
After cutting the candy, set them on wax paper with room between the pieces. Mine were quite gooey after I cut them and they sat for a day. Gooey, but delicious….
Don’t skip the 24 hours at room temperature – this sets the candy and makes it perfect.