I am rather skilled in the eating of sugar confectionery despite my sub-par skills in the making thereof. Sugar confectionery is an elaborate art form really; all that temperature checking, sugar pulling and variations of toffee making. It requires much exactness and following of procedure on the part of the confectioner to create even just one teeny morsel of sweet pleasure.
For this reason sugar confectionery is also an area thought alarmingly technical and thus one to which many cooks find themselves hesitant to venture. Obviously, the same cannot be said for me. I am apparently fearless. I awoke; I stormed the kitchen and pronounced it a perfect day to attempt nougat. Actually I am not at all that dramatic so it was more of a: “hmmm, I think I will try to make some nougat today” kind of thing.
Three days later after discovering that there is seemingly very little call for it in Boland – hashtag irritating – I had driven ALL THE WAY into Cape Town to buy rice paper and I was all set to begin. To prepare you for the part of the story which is about to come next, I must mention that this particular day was unseasonably warm in the aforementioned Boland. To welcome in the sun and the warmth of the new season I had opened all the windows and all the doors in our open plan kitchen / lounge.
The first reason I chose to make this exact recipe was because it used honey as a main ingredient; a choice I was to deeply regret. The second was my reasoning that with this recipe I could use the cold water method to check that the sugar was at the correct temperature. You may remember that I made these marshmallows without a sugar thermometer too.
Everything was going swimmingly. I had each ingredient measured and prepared and at the ready. (This is a vital step for success in this recipe.) The sugar was nearing the correct temperature and I had begun to whisk the egg whites when without warning I was accosted – yes accosted – by a bazillion bees. You know that phrase “like bees to honey”? Friends they were not kidding with that one.
The smell of the honey sugar syrup boiling away had awoken a slightly aggressive army of bees from their winter hibernation and they were currently, engines running, doing roll call in my kitchen and lounge. What ensued next was a rather frantic me shooing and running in circles all whilst employing the general flailing about of the arms in a desperate attempt to escape the bees.
Somewhere in the middle of all of that mayhem I remembered the sugar syrup which I grabbed from the stove and started beating into the egg whites in an attempt to divert the very full attention it had commanded from those many many bees.
I quickly finished off the nougat and when it was resting in the pan I sat down and had a well-deserved cuppa; because sugar confectionery is totally nerve wracking.
It wasn’t until the last of the bees had recalled back to base that I had a little think and remembered that I had not checked the sugar temp one last time before whipping it off the stove. Because bees. My nougat was unforgiving of this oversight and in my opinion the end result was just a little bit too soft, but thankfully in a rather creamy dreamy nougat kind of way.
What have we learned?
- Do not make this nougat with the windows open unless you live in the desert where I assume there are no bees.
- Do not make this nougat if you are melissophobic even if you live in the desert because bees have seriously good intel.
- Always check the sugar temperature one last time even when under enemy fire.
- Sam should just invest in a sugar thermometer.
- Nougat is just fabulous and thus completely worth it, although that may be something you already knew.
- 3-4 sheets rice paper
- 100 g skinned pistachio nuts, roughly chopped
- 225 g white sugar
- 140 g honey
- 30 ml (2 T) liquid glucose
- 110 ml (½ C less 1 T) water
- 2 egg whites
- 5 ml (1 t) vanilla essence
- 80 g dried cranberries
- Line a 20 cm square pan using 2 sheets of rice paper to line both the bottom and the sides.
- Place the nuts on a baking tray and gently heat them in an oven preheated to 100˚C. Switch off the oven to simply keep the nuts warm.
- Place the sugar, honey, glucose and water in a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved.
- Turn up the heat and allow the syrup to rapidly boil until it reaches 150 ˚C (soft crack stage) begin whisking the egg whites in an electric mixer until they reach soft peak stage.
- When the sugar reaches 160 ˚C (hard crack stage) pour the hot sugar into the egg whites whisking all the time.
- Continue beating the egg whites and sugar until the mixture becomes extremely thick.
- Add the warm nuts, cranberries and vanilla essence and stir through by hand.
- Spoon the mixture into the prepared pan and then press another sheet/s of rice paper on the top and flatten the nougat so that it is even.
- Cool completely.
- When the nougat is set turn out of the pan and cut into squares.