Although I’ve never been, I’m sure France is my favorite place in the world. I dream of Parisian cafés and shops where I can buy any flavor of macaron. Boutiques with fashionable clothes and tiny cobblestone streets off of plazas. Even just the word they use for districts makes me smile: arrondissement. Hubby and I have a plan to go; and when we eventually make it, I know it will be as spectacular as I’ve imagined.
Though lacking the colorful splendor of macarons, this French candy is delightful. Full of nuts and sweet with a hint of honey, its flavor is worth the post new years splurge. It’s similar to the italian torrone, with just a tad more chew to it.
I won’t lie to you – this isn’t an easy endeavor. If you are adventurous (and own a candy thermometer), save a good couple hours to make this treat – and be warned that it has to harden overnight. Even so, I don’t regret the time I put into making this french confection. And since it makes so much, there is plenty to package up and share with friends (perfect for holiday gifts).
Makes about 40-50 pieces (depending on cut size)
3.5 cups raw almonds
1 cup raw pistachios (shelled ~ which means out of shell)
500 grams honey (2 1/4 cups)
400 grams sugar (2 cups)
1/4 cup water
4 large egg whites at room temperature
100 grams powdered sugar (1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon vanilla
(I recommend throughly reading the recipe through before beginning – there are several concurrent steps, so it is important to know what you are going to be doing!)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and roast the almonds and pistachios for about 10 minutes, tossing 3-4 times to make sure they toast evenly (they should be starting to turn golden and smell delicious).
Line 9 x13 baking dish with parchment paper, cutting diagonals in the corners to help fold paper up the sides. (I have parchment paper that fits a half sheet pan, but you can get the same effect with rolled parchment paper.)
In a saucepan fitted with a candy thermometer, heat the sugar and water until it reaches hardball stage (260°F). Meanwhile, create a bain marie by filling a saucepan with water and then placing a metal bowl inside. The bottom of the bowl should sit in the water. Heat the honey, stirring constantly. When the sugar reaches hardball stage, carefully add the honey to it. Stir until it is combined, then heat until it passes the soft crack stage (about 285°F).
When the honey/sugar mixture hits about 270°F, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks in a stand mixer. (This will mean when you take the beater out and turn it upside down, the egg whites will stand straight up.) Like macarons, try not to over beat.
Once the honey mixture is heated to soft crack, slowly add it to the eggs. Pour it down the side of the bowl so it doesn’t hit the beaters (as this will cause hard chunks to form). The mixture will begin to thicken immediately. Keep the mixer at medium high, until the bowl feels close to room temperature (about 15 minutes). You can also wrap the bottom of the bowl in a frozen dish towel to speed cooling. Add the powdered sugar and mix until combined. Then add nuts.
As soon as the nuts have been mixed into the batter, pour it into the prepared pan. Spray a wooden spoon with oil to help scare. The candy will be thick – I needed hubby to scrape while I held the bowl. Smooth the batter with the spoon. Then coat your hands and a rolling-pin with powdered sugar – smooth out the pan using the pin and your hands. The candy will begin to harden almost immediately so get it smooth as quickly as you can, but know that it won’t be perfect (sigh). Allow it to cool overnight.
Once cool, flip the nougat onto a cutting board and peel off the parchment paper. Slice into strips and then cut each of those (I think I made 1.25″ notches with a ruler to help me cut into cute squares.
Wrapped in plastic, these will last for a couple months.
You can also package up a couple in cellophane bags (separated by parchment paper) for cute gifts.
Adapted from The Kitchn