Many legends exist around nougat’s origins. The word “nougat” comes from latin “nux gatum”, meaning nut pie (gâteau aux noix) and it came to western Europe from the old Byzantium during the era of the Roman Empire. There are three basic kinds of nougat. The first, and most popular, is white nougat (mandorlato or torrone in Italy, turrón in Spain), made with beaten egg whites, cooked honey and sugar base syrup; it appeared in Italy; early 15th century, in Alicante, Spain in the 16th century, and in Marseille and Montélimar, France, in the 18th century. The texture of the nougat may vary from soft to hard; the higher the temperature of the cooked sugar the harder the nougat. Nougat can also be finished in the oven to get a toasted color and thus, a firmer texture. This recipe bellow calls for medium-firm. Nougat de Montélimar must contain 30% of dry fruits such as almonds and pistachios. Nougat paste isn’t the same and requires only 15%. The quality of the nougat depends on dry fruits and honey percentage. Candied orange peels brings up the nougat to next level (nougat de Montélimar a l’orange). Other dried fruits can be added to such as apricot, cherry, raisins… and flavors as well such as lemon, anis, vanilla, ginger and chocolate. Nougat is an important component of Christmas celebration.
If the required temperature of the sugar is ready too soon, reduce the heat and lower down its temperature by dropping a couple of teaspoons of cool water into the hot syrup – stay in control until it goes back up to the right temp.
Use a 7 qt (7L) Heavy Duty Mixer. Toast nuts for 10 min in a 350ºF oven; keep warm.
Have baking tray or mold ready before starting. Sides of the tray should be oiled and bottom covered with a glossy side down wafer paper sheet or some of the sifted sugar-starch mixture or covered with thinly crushed nuts. Avoid plastic wrap in direct contact with the hot nougat; it wont get off well.
Have the sugar syrup and honey syrup ready in 2 separate saucepan and cook the sugar syrup first. Meanwhile, beat the room temp egg whites and cream of tartar on medium low speed; Keeping egg whites on foamy stage. When temperature of the sugar syrup reaches 220ºF (120ºC); it should take 15 min, lower the flame to low – and begin to cook the honey syrup on high heat. When honey reaches 266ºF/130ºC, the meringue is still be in its foamy stage or near soft peaks – set mixer speed to high and pour the hot honey on thin stream against the side of the bowl – continue beating on high. In the mean time, the temperature of the sugar syrup should be at 293ºF/145ºC (firm-ball stage), pour sugar syrup into the meringue lowering the speed to medium. This is where you are beating all the air and fluffy chewiness into the candy; continue to beat for 5 minutes more on medium high. Turn mixer off and swap the whisk with the paddle attachment. Add hot cocoa butter – Turn mixer back on and continue mixing for a minute. Add the warm nuts and mix to combine for a few seconds – do not over mix.
Oil utensils and your finger tips as well. Transfer the sticky and still warm-hot nougat mixture in the prepared pan; go as fast as possible. It gets harder and harder as the mixture cools down. Shape into rectangle and top with another wafer paper (glossy side up) – use a rolling pin to smooth it out. Let cool for a few hours. Nougat can be chilled as well. If chilled though, leave nougat out for 30 min to soften before cutting, it should be quite firm but not rock hard.
Yields a 13”x9”x1” (32x23x2.5cm) baking tray / 3.3 lb. (1500g). 22 each 4.5”x1” (11.25x2.5cm) bars. To un-mold nougat, run an oiled spatula all over the edges and flip. Use a good serrated knife to trim off edges. Divide nougat slab in half lengthwise and each half into bars using some of the sugar-starch mixture as you go. Nougat can be wrapped in clear caramel, chocolate and candy wrappers or wax paper. Like most confectioneries, nougat is best stored between 57/61ºF (14/16ºC) and very low humidity for months. Though, for household uses the refrigerator remains a good option during summer time and warm countries. Avoid humidity though. Just leave nougat out for about 30 min or until it has soften a bit. Enjoy!
Soak mixing bowl and utensils in boiling water and soap, let cool – wash and rinse or finish in the dishwasher but the knife.