My husband and I love nougat–some of you have seen this presented as a petit four, and some of you have seen this as an individually wrapped candy in Persian stores. It also comes in large bars called “torrone” in Italy. Some of you think that nougat is that stuff inside a Snickers bar (that’s not really nougat).
From a distance, it looks like a white marshmallow dotted with pistachio nuts, but as you bite into one, you know it’s something wholly different: firm and chewy yet with a taste as light as air, sweet and fleeting on the tongue. Depending on the recipe, you may taste a hint of rosewater or bite into a candied cherry, too. It should taste sweet but not too sweet.
That, my friends, is NOT the kind of nougat I made the other night.
As a believer in “learning from one’s mistakes,” I thought I’d share this experiment with you. Plus, I think it’s always entertaining to watch other people’s cooking mishaps–a good story is one in which something goes wrong (really, when was the last time you watched a soap opera where nothing ever went wrong?). So I hope you’re entertained (and don’t think I’m a total moron for screwing up nougat)!
I think I invented another kind of candy, a result of some hapless alchemy on my part. I was entranced by “The Cook’s Book” and its recipe for nougat montelimar, and made substitutions that I now regret. Instead of clear honey, I put in a brownish wildflower honey. I halved the recipe, too, not measuring the ingredients with much precision (did I add to much honey? I think I did). I added rosewater, because I like rosewater in my nougat (though to my benefit I substituted it for water).
The result: a very gooey, brownish goop that would not solidify, even when placed in the refrigerator overnight.
Its taste is not too off–the honey flavor is strong, but the concoction does resemble nougat…but it ends there. I will try again! I have to trust this recipe, as this cookbook is getting some rave reviews. Candy, like baking, is a precision sport.
(and Hallelujah! An Update on my nougat adventures: successful Persian nougat!)
Recipe for Nougat Montelimar (from The Cook’s Book)
Makes about 2.5 pounds (1 kg)
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/3 cup clear honey
- 1 tbsp liquid glucose or light corn syrup
- 1.5egg whites (precise weight 1.5 oz or 45 g)
- 1/3 cup coarsely chopped candied cherries
- 1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachio nuts (blanched and skinned)
- 1/3 cup slicked almonds
- 1/4 cup coarsely chopped almonds
- Dissolve the sugar in the water in a pot then bring rapidly to a boil. Boil until the syrup reaches 224F (107C). The water will have evaporated by this stage, and the hot, liquid sugar will have begun a series of changes that thicken and eventually color it. At this point, it should not show any sign of caramelization.
- Add the honey and glucose, and boil until the syrup reaches 275F (135C). Beat the egg white to stiff peaks. Remove the syrup from the heat and spoon the egg white on top, beating constantly. This is best done with a portable electric mixer at maximum speed.
- Warm the cherries and nuts, then stir into the mixture. Line a shallow pan with rice paper (or plastic wrap). Pour the nougat into the pan and spread evenly, then cover with more rice paper. Press the surface with a weighted flat board and let cool overnight. To serve, cut the nougat into small rectangles with a knife dipped in hot water.
p.s. the following picture is the nougat I was TRYING to make when I made the mess above. I was adapting the nougat montelimar recipe to make persian pistachio rosewater nougat that I think is heavenly: