Another one from my bucket list – French Nougat de Montélimar.
Not overly sweet, firm but chewy – just wonderful!
After reading literally dozens of different recipes, I settled on this one, which I adapted slightly. I used Acacia honey for its mild flavour and pale colour, and because I couldn’t find the traditional lavender honey anywhere locally. I couldn’t find unsalted pistachios either, so I used a mixture of almonds and dried cranberries.
200g whole almonds (traditionally unpeeled, but as you prefer)
150g dried cranberries
180g glucose syrup
380g granulated (white) sugar
250g honey (preferably pale)
2 large egg whites (approx. 65 – 70g)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
My tips: This cannot be attempted without a candy thermometer (one that does not have a plastic handle… I killed one making this!) and I think it requires a stand mixer, or a team of strong armed helpers. Make sure you have everything measured, weighed and in place before starting. This isn’t a long process, by any means, but temperature is everything so make sure you are distraction-free for the duration.
Preheat oven to 170°C, spread the almonds on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes, until fragrant. Turn oven off, spread dried cranberries on sheet with almonds and return to oven to stay warm. The fruit and nuts must be warm when you add them to the nougat.
Prepare your pan for the nougat. This recipe makes enough for a pan roughly 22 x 22cm. Mine was 26 x 20cm, which worked perfectly. You can use non-stick parchment, or line it with parchment and dust the base heavily with a 50/50 mixture of powdered sugar and potato starch, but the best result is to use wafer paper, a.k.a. edible rice paper, that is designed for just such a task (and is not actually made from rice, but from potato starch) – shiny side out. Whatever system you use, make sure the base is fully covered. It can help to have an outer layer of parchment, foil or plastic wrap for lifting it out. Ensure that you have more parchment, powder mix or wafer paper prepared for the top, as well.
In a medium, heavy based saucepan, mix the glucose syrup, sugar and water with a wooden spoon and place over medium heat to bring to the boil, without stirring. It must come to 150°C and this will take about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small, heavy based saucepan, bring the honey to the boil over medium-low heat, until it reaches 135°C. It is important that the honey reaches this temperature so that any water in it will be cooked off. It will take about 10 minutes.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the egg whites and cream of tartar. When the honey approaches the boil, start whisking the egg whites on medium speed so that they form stiff peaks about the same time as the honey boils.
With the mixer running on medium speed, pour the honey very slowly in a thin stream into the whites.
Still with the mixer running on medium speed, pour the sugar-glucose mixture into the whites and honey mixture.
Add the vanilla and continue to beat for another 5 minutes, until it is bright and satiny, becomes firm and sticks to the whisk.
Use a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to fold in the warm nuts and dried fruit.
Immediately transfer the mass to the prepared pan. It will be hot, sticky and thick and will not want to cooperate, but you must work quickly before it cools. An extra set of hands at this point can be of great assistance.
Press the mass as flat as you can with a spatula, then top with whatever you used for the bottom. You can use a rolling pin or offset spatula to smooth the top.
Leave the nougat to cool overnight, or in the fridge for several hours if the room is warm or humid.
Turn the nougat out onto a cutting board and use a large, lightly oiled knife to cut it into bars or squares, as desired. You will probably need to rinse and re-oil the knife a few times. I used a drop of canola on each side of the blade.
Keep nougat in a cool, dry place, preferably wrapped individually in parchment.