After a number of other experiments and creations (creative avoidance?) I finally decided to give nougat another try, incorporating all the lessons I learned with my first two attempts. (These lessons are highlighted here again, for more detail see The Nougat Chronicles on this blog.) I’m happy to report that the learning paid off, and I produced perfect Honey and Almond Nougat! It is firm yet tender, a deliciously soft chew, with a gentle honeyed sweetness perfectly complemented by the warmth of toasted nuts…*sigh*
Oh, but back to the recipe…
I used a number of parts of a number of different recipes, from ingredients to cooking time, to technique, so this is now essentially my own recipe. Makes 25 squares.
2 rounded cups castor sugar
2 tsp liquid glucose
4 Tbsp honey
4 Tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
200g almonds (you can use any amount from 100g to 200g, depending on your personal preference for nuttiness. I’m partial to nuttiness in all aspects of life.)
20 x 20 x 4cm non-stick baking tin
Non-stick spray or Baking paper (if you’re not sure about the “non-stickiness” of your tin, line with baking paper)
Electric beater on stand
Knife with a smooth blade
Bowl of clean hot water
Tool Tip: The bowl of hot water is useful to place your spoons and knife in between use. The sugar and syrup mixtures on the utensils set very quickly and will stick the utensils to plates and work surfaces if rested on them. The hot water keeps the syrup from setting and saves on cleanups of sticky kitchen tops. (Wresting a syrup-stuck spoon from a dry surface all requires far too much unnecessary energy.)
Method Tip 1: A key to making nougat is patience. Allow yourself enough time if you decide to make it, and allow elements to roast, stiffen, heat, thicken, or set as indicated – you cannot rush the process if you want to achieve success. I have included photos of the changing phases in each part of the process, to give an idea of what you should be seeing as you go, and especially so that you can see the difference between “still a ways to go” and “Done”.
Method Tip 2: To save time, steps 2 and 3 below – lining the tin and beating the egg whites – can be done while the nuts are roasting.
- Preheat the oven to 160C (320F). Spread the nuts out on the baking tray, and roast for 12 minutes. (The nuts will be a little softer and easier to chop. If not, roast a little longer – almonds are pretty hard and unroasted are really hard to chop.) Switch the oven off, remove the nuts (using oven gloves, the tray is hot) and chop roughly. Return the chopped nuts to the warm oven and leave them in there until needed.
Spray the baking tin bottom and (important!) sides with non-stick spray, and line with a sheet of rice paper. Prepare 2 sheets of rice paper – you’ll need the second sheet for the top of the nougat – cutting to size as needed. (It’s likely that you will have to cut the rice paper to size, and then use part of the leftover piece to fill any gaps, creating a one-layer lining. Use a pair of kitchen scissors to do this. One option is to measure the 20×20 with a clean ruler, or you can measure using the tin itself as a guide.)
- Whisk the egg whites – in the bowl that belongs to your electric stand beater – until stiff. (I prefer to do this initial whisking with the electric beater off the stand, so that I can manually move the beaters through the egg whites and around the bowl. Once stiff, I set up the mixer and bowl on the stand, ready for the later steps which require the stand option.)
- Combine the sugar, liquid glucose, honey, water and vanilla essence in the pot, and stir lightly on a medium-low heat – set the plate to 3 – until the sugar is dissolved. (The mixture will go through slight colour and texture changes, darkening and thinning as it heats, as the pictures below show.)
- Once the sugar has dissolved, stop any stirring, turn the plate down to 2, and place the candy thermometer in the pot. From this point, do not stir the syrup at all.
- Heat the syrup, without stirring, to 145C (295F). 145C gives a nougat that is halfway between very soft-and-chewy and hard. (This is where patience really is key. It takes a while to reach the desired temperature, and there is nothing you can do but wait.) The mixture will turn golden and bubble and foam initially (still a ways to go), then it will darken with bigger bubbles (still a ways to go). Only when the thermometer indicates 145C, is it ready to add to the egg whites (Done).
- Remove from the heat, and – with the mixer on, and whisking – drizzle slowly into the egg whites. (This is important, too fast and the mixture will clump and stiffen too soon.)
- Once all the syrup has been added, continue to beat until the mixture is glossy and starts to stiffen – 10 to 12 minutes. (You don’t want it completely stiff as you still need to be able to stir the nuts in, and spread the nougat in the baking tin, before it’s too stiff to work with.)
- While the mixture is whisking, remove the nuts from the warm oven (gloves again, the tray will still be hot).
- Remove the bowl from the stand, and – working quickly – scrape as much of the mixture off the beaters as possible. (Work quickly, the mixture will be stiffening. It’s pretty difficult to get the mixture off the beaters, but do your best and lick the rest.)
- Still working quickly, add the nuts to the mixture, stirring well to combine. (This is hard work, as the mixture will be quite thick and stiff.)
- Spread the mixture onto the rice paper in the prepared baking tin. (Apparently, if the mixture is too hard you can spread it with the back of a warm spoon. I have not tried this, as I have not had that problem, but you might need to go this route.)
- Cover with the second sheet of rice paper you prepared (and strips as needed).
- Place a light weight – as close to the size of the tin as possible – on top. (I previously used a box of oat bran for this, but dad’s been eating it so the box is no longer a “weight”. Instead, I wrapped a hardback novel in a kitchen bag and used that. Now, many will argue that Jeffrey Archer is a literary heavyweight, but it turns out “The Fourth Estate” is a perfect light weight to shape nougat.)
- Leave the nougat in a cool spot to…well…cool. Leave it to cool for at least 8 hours. (And you thought I was kidding about patience!)
- After the 8 hours (or longer) when the nougat seems solidly firm when you tap or press on it, loosen the sides by sliding a sharp knife around the edges and turn out.
- Spray a non-serrated knife with non-stick spray, and cut the nougat into 5 bars 4cm wide. (Don’t “saw”, try and slice with a single motion as cleanly as possible.) Respray the knife between each slice to ensure a constantly smooth cut.
- Cut each bar into 5 pieces, 4cm wide. (Again, spray and slice, spray and slice.)
- Wrap each 4x4cm square in plastic wrap/ cling wrap. (It’s just like wrapping a gift and a useful size for each piece of plastic wrap is 140mm x 90mm.)
- Wrap Tip: Plastic wrap tends to stick best to itself, and gets worse as your finger oils affect it. The less touching the better. Mom gave the idea to roll it out onto and over a board to prevent curling. Dad’s contribution was to recommend using a blade and metal ruler to cut the wrap into the size needed. He also created a paper template which I used to demarcate the cutting area. I hardly touched the wrap itself while cutting it, and my wrapping time was at least two-thirds quicker than before (with scissors). It also meant consistent wrapper size, and no waste.
- Store in a cool dry place. (Don’t put nougat in the fridge, cool room temperature is what is needed.)Eat, eat and eat some more!!