Ah–victory at last! After miserable failed attempts, I made a successful batch of Persian (or Middle Eastern) nougat, thanks to the help of a friend with experience in candy making.
Persian nougat is a candy that I have longed to make for years. Similar to Italian torrone, yet substantially different in texture and flavor to merit distinction, it is a candy that is not sold in many places, nor is it a candy that is popular in recipe books. I know. I searched far and wide. And failed to find how to make it. But a reader here pointed me to a basic recipe for the nougat, and I quickly saved it to make with my friend R, who I knew would not lead me astray in candy making. I was sick of making mistakes. This time, with the actual recipe in hand, I had to have a perfect result!
I could TASTE the nougat in my mouth as I read the recipe. Oooooh.
I didn’t grow up with this candy but many members of my extended family did and this is a favorite snack in the household. I know why, because I have fallen in love with it–the nougat has brought joy and delight and consolation in many circumstances. It is just the best.
The initial recipe left out some crucial spices and ingredients (ooooh, it bugs me when cooks post recipes but leave out “secret ingredients,” secret ingredients that in this case are critical path), but the most crucial bit was documented: the main nougat part with the egg whites and sugar syrup. And you too, can fine tune the spices to your own tasting. I like to add a good amount of cardamom as well as rose water (generous amounts of cardamom and rose water), you might want to add different things such as orange blossom water instead.
I’ve posted the recipe below, with my own adjustments. I hesitated to post this, because this recipe is so precious and a part of me feels incredibly selfish, wants to keep it for herself! But no. This isn’t a family recipe, it was handed to me by a reader, and I pass it back to you, with good amendments.
The process is fairly straightforward–but like with all candymaking, precision is of the utmost importance. Take the sugar syrup to the precise temperature (next time, we’re going to take it a bit higher than we did this time, for a firmer nougat). Make sure the egg whites are stiff.
And in stages, you’ll add the syrup to the egg whites. BE VERY CAREFUL. The sugar syrup will be beyond boiling temp, and you are pouring it into egg whites AS THEY ARE BEING WHISKED, so pour slowly, pour at a distance, pour out of the whisk’s way…or else you run the risk of it spattering.
Add your spices and rose water…then put into a shallow dish and let cool.
This nougat wasn’t as fluffy as the nougat from the Carmel Market in Tel Aviv, and in fact I was initially disappointed in the dense texture of this nougat. However, according to a good source, this resembles the nougat out of Baghdad. A true compliment, as my source grew up in Baghdad and he said this candy reminded him of his childhood. This is real “baba khadrasi!” he cried out with a smile. He was the reason I sought out this recipe, really–and I was glad to make him happy.
I hope you enjoy the recipe and if you make some, enjoy the nougat, too. My next ambition is to make some Korean candy…and also to figure out how to make this nougat without using corn syrup (yes, it’s a listed ingredient).
Basic recipe follows after the jump…
Persian/Middle Eastern nougat
* 2 cups granulated sugar
* 1 1/2 cups light corn syrup
* 1/4 teaspoon salt
* 1/4 cup water
* 2 eggs (just the whites)
* 3-4 tsp rose water or orange blossom water (to taste)
* 2 tsp spices (e.g., cardamom to taste)
* 1 cup toasted pistachios or almonds (whatever you favor)
Beat the Egg Whites
Crack two eggs over a bowl, and separate the whites from the yolks by pouring the contents of the egg from one shell into another.
Keep the egg whites. Place egg whites in a large bowl of a stand mixer, and whisk until they hold stiff peaks.
Make the Sugar Mixture
Combine the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved, and continue to cook until mixture reaches hard-ball stage (250 degrees).
When sugar syrup has reached 250 degrees, remove it from heat and slowly pour approximately one quarter of the mixture into the stiff egg whites, with the mixer running constantly.
Continue to beat the egg whites until the mixture holds its shape.
Return the saucepan with the remaining sugar syrup to the stove, and continue to cook over medium-high heat until the mixture reaches 300 degrees (hard-crack stage).
With the mixer running, pour the remaining sugar syrup slowly into the egg mixture and continue beating until mixture is thick and stiff.
Add the rose water, orange blossom water, and/or spices and mix it together. Then fold in the nuts and stir until they’re combined.
Set the Pistachio Nougat
Oil the bottom and sides of a baking pan. Spoon the nougat into the prepared pan, and press it smoothly and evenly.
Keep it in refrigerator until the nougat is set. Take it out of the mold and cut it into squares.