Most of us know nougat as that ivory-colored layer of fluffiness in snickers & milky way bars. Almost marshmallow-y, but a bit thicker and more spreadable.
I am here to tell you that there is another kind of nougat.
One that is light, yet solid, and incredibly sweet. One that slowly melts on your tongue like a cloud of whipped honey. One that is tricky to make (especially the first time) but is oh so lovely and delicious when you get it right.
The first time I had this type of nougat was when I was studying abroad in Paris in 2007. There are many little candy tents stationed all over the city, especially near the metro entrances. I, being a long-time lover of any and all candies, frequented these stands often and finally decided to try the little white square that had almonds visible from the sides. It was so neat and clean and dainty-looking, just holding it made me feel like I was someone special. Then I ate it, and felt like a queen (only someone of a high-ranking monarchical authority would be allowed to eat such delicacies, of course).
I continued eating it while I was in Europe and when I got back to the states I couldn’t find it anywhere at a reasonable price (my addiction did lead me to spend $12 on a 5-inch piece of it at a snooty coffee shop. The grip of my addiction was almost crippling.) So, I generally stopped eating it. Then, a few months ago, my parents came back from a trip to Greece and brought some back with them, being entirely unaware of my affinity for the treat. Of course I ate it immediately. Then I realized that I could probably try making it myself.
So I did, with little success. The first recipe I used had an abundance of errors in it, the heating method was incorrect, the measurements were off (they converted European grams to American cups but did not do so correctly), and the mixing time was too short. On top of this I over-beat the egg whites (my bad). In the end it was quite beautiful but the texture was far too soft and gooey. Still tasty, but just not quite right.
I learned from my mistakes, however, and this time I was able to make it without much difficulty. Egg whites beaten to perfection, sugar and honey heated just so, and with everything measured on a kitchen scale, I was able to conquer the nougat beast. And I am very happy I did so. Mmmm mmmm.
Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with wafer paper and set aside. In a
medium-large and thick-bottomed pot, heat the sugar, honey, and water over medium-high heat
until the temperature reaches 315 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring every
five minutes and then more often once the temperature exceeds 250
degrees. (The mixture will get very foamy and bubbly on top the hotter
it gets, this is supposed to happen so don’t get scared.) Once it
reaches 315 degrees Fahrenheit turn off the heat and allow it to cool
down to about 300 degrees while you start beating the egg whites.
about 4 minutes to add it all, just to give you an idea of how slowly it
should be incorporated).
beating the mixture at medium-high speed for 15-20 minutes until it has roughly tripled in
volume. It will start out very golden in color but as it is whipped it
will begin to turn ivory. Then add the powdered sugar a little at a time
over a period of about two minutes and continue mixing until it is
fully incorporated. Then mix in the pistachios and dried cranberries at a
Scoop the mixture out into the baking pan (you will probably need
another person to hold the bowl while you scoop out the nougat, as it
will be very thick, sticky, and heavy). Distribute it as evenly as you can. If you have some extra pistachios or dried cranberries you can sprinkle a handful over the top of the nougat.
Place a sheet of wafer paper on top of the nougat and roll a rolling pin over
the top to help smooth the sheet of wafer paper onto the nougat Allow to cool for 3 hours, then flip the pan over and unmold the
nougat onto a flat surface to continue cooling for another 3 hours. Then
cut the nougat using a well-greased knife into 2-inch wide strips and then into 3-inch long pieces. (You may need to re-grease your knife from time to time during the cutting process). Your nougat is complete!