Nougat – So Naughty it’s Nice
Nougat is a sweet treat that has been enjoyed for quite some time. According to Wiki, a Middle Eastern book found in Baghdad, dating back to the 10th century, lists a sweet called nāṭif which seems to be pretty close to the nougat we know today. There are varying kinds, from the real deal – soft and chewy to a crunchier version with nuts and other additions. Whatever form it takes, it will always be the sweetest of treats. So much sweetness, it has to be naughty… and yet so nice.
Different Variations of Nougat
There are three basic variations – white, brown and soft nut nougat.
The most common nougat, the one most familiar to us, is white nougat. Known as ‘nougat blanc’ in French, ‘torrone’ in Italian and ‘turrón in Spanish. It is cooked with sugar and honey and mixed in with beaten egg white. It can be soft and chewy or hard, and is usually accompanied with the typical goodies like almonds, cranberries, etc. Check out what local team Ma Mère does.
In French, it is ‘nougat noir’ – meaning ‘black nougat’, and ‘croccante’ in Italian – meaning ‘crunchy’. Brown nougat is made with caramelised sugar and honey and has a firmer, more crunchy texture. The lack of egg whites and the caramelisation of the sugars gives this nougat its dark colour and usual firm and brittle consistency.
Soft nut nougat is also known as praline paste or German/Viennese nougat. This is essentially a chocolate and nut praline – usually made with hazelnuts. It differs from the more traditional white and brown nougat as it is usually made with finely-ground nuts that are bound with sugar, cocoa butter and chocolate liquor. The product is a smooth and soft paste that can be eaten as is, or can be used in baking, as a filling or spread or used for candy making.
Nougat that is Not
‘Nougat’ that is advertised in chocolate candy bars like Snickers and Bar One are very far from the real thing. Even though you will find nougat-related elements in the ingredients list, it will be towards the end of the list which means you’re getting significantly more soy lecithin, artificial flavouring and partially hydrogenated soybean oil than the real deal.
Make Your Own Nougat
Nougat is simple to make and can be used for a beautiful and delicious gift. With any homemade goods, you know exactly what you’re getting if you use proper, good-quality ingredients. So go forth and make your own, stunning confection.
Pistachio, Cranberry & Honey Nougat
Make a classic white nougat with delicious pops of pistachio and cranberry.
2 sheets rice paper
1 C (250 ml) sugar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) liquid glucose
½ C (125 ml) water
2/5 C (100 ml) honey
2 egg whites
1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped
100 g pistachio nuts
100 g dried cranberries
Line a square baking dish (the size of the rice paper square) with 1 sheet of rice paper.
Place the sugar, liquid glucose and water into a small saucepan and melt gently over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved.
Once the sugar has dissolved, bring to the boil and cook until the syrup reaches 135 °C.
Add the honey and continue to boil until the syrup reaches 143 °C (soft crack stage).
Meanwhile, place the egg whites and vanilla seeds into a heatproof bowl and beat until stiff peak stage.
Remove the syrup from the heat once soft crack stage has been reached. Gradually add the hot syrup to the stiffly beaten egg whites, beating continuously until the mixture thickens, is stiff and has cooled down slightly, about 10 minutes.
Fold in the pistachio nuts and cranberries, and spread evenly onto the rice paper. Top with the remaining sheet of rice paper.
Press down firmly with the palm of your hand and keep to one side to cool (do not refrigerate).
Setting time is between 6 and 12 hours. After setting cut into bite-sized pieces or long bars.
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