Nougat was always one of those things that I loved to eat but never considered even attempting to make myself because it’s notoriously difficult! But I’m not too sure how it really gained its notoriety. Perhaps it was just in my slightly neurotic, worst-case-scenario mind, and I somehow invented or magnified any hesitation I felt about making nougat. Or maybe there is a legitimate reason to fear nougat. Who knows, but in any case I have avoided it for many years.
A few months back though, on some rare whim of excitement, elation and fearlessness, I made nougat. This is a bigger deal than it may seem. Let me explain.
I’ve never been someone who goes out of my way to try new things. I’m not a go-getter. I’m not very adventurous. My first solo international adventure was a bit of a shambles and to be quite frank, a fairly distressing experience. I don’t like it when things are risky – especially when the risk is wasted time or money. I’m conservative and like to play it safe, go with things I know, even if it’s more boring in the end. Once I have an idea in my head, it takes time for me to alter it or completely change my mind. So making nougat, after it being on my I-can’t-possibly-ever-attempt-that-baked-good list for so long, was a really big deal. I like to think these things are changing; that I’m becoming more open-minded and easy going, but I’m sure many of you will testify that I’m not your classic easy-going type. But that’s okay – I made nougat. Life goal achieved. And I’m not even a quarter way through! That’s a terrifying thought.
Anyway, now that you know more than you ever wanted to know about me and my strange mind, let’s move on to bigger and better things, like nougat! So, the first try wasn’t great – it tasted amazing, but it was so sticky and soft that it was very difficult to eat. So I had to try again (recklessness, I know)! I did try again, and overcoming that hesitance was well-rewarded: the nougat was soft, not too firm or crunchy, but it held its shape very nicely. It had a strong honey flavour and the almonds were nicely roasted, adding texture and a welcome smokiness.
But I guess in the end nougat is tricky. Heating anything sugar-related on the stove is tricky. So just have your sugar thermometer close by and use that gut instinct to make-the-business out of this nougat. Even if you don’t get the temperatures right, and it’s seriously gooey, or it seizes in the mixer, don’t stress: revel in the fact that you attempted a tricky thing and enjoy whatever ugly goodness you created, because honey always tastes good, in whatever form, regardless of how ugly it is. And then, try again. And you’ll master it. Then you can show the good-looking stuff to friends and impress them all (no need to be coy – you’re a master now)!
2 egg whites
50 grams icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- Line a 9×9 inch tray with baking paper, keeping the paper as flat as possible, flush against the sides and corners of the pan.
- Start by roasting the almonds and pistachios in a pan at 200C fan-forced for about 5-10 minutes, until you can smell them! Check them every few minutes to make sure they’re not burning and shake the tray occasionally to make sure they roast evenly.
- Heat the honey in a saucepan over low heat, stirring all the time. In another pan, heat the sugar, to 120-129C (250-265°F). Then, keeping the honey on the heat, add the sugar to the honey. Keep it on the heat and continue to stir until it reaches 138-143C (280-290°F).
- In a stand mixer, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks.
- Add the honey and sugar mixture to the egg whites a little at a time and beat carefully on medium speed. It will begin to form a ball around the beater – but keep beating for about 6-8 minutes. It should be thick and smooth. Then add the warm nuts and the icing sugar.
- As soon as the nuts have been mixed into the batter, pour it into the prepared pan. It will be difficult to manipulate, so try using a rigid spoon or scraper coated in water or oil to help.
- Smooth the mixture out as best you can. Just be aware that the nougat hardens very quickly, so you need to work quickly!
- Allow it to cool for at least 3 hours, but ideally overnight. It should be very firm to the touch, not soft or gooey.
- Once cool, slice up the nougat into small chunks and store in an airtight container.