04 Dec Christmas Nougat
A festive favourite enjoyed by all ages.
An old school friend of Paul’s, Daniel Zanello, of Italian heritage, told him his nonna swore that you could judge good nougat by its chewiness. It should be soft and chewy in just the right way: it shouldn’t melt in your mouth (that’s too soft) — and it shouldn’t break in shards (that’s too hard). It’s a delicate balance getting it just right.
Italians eat nougat festively around Christmas time, but we think it’s so delicious you may as well eat it all year round. While the Italian variety uses almonds, the Austrian variety prefers hazelnuts. You can experiment with any roasted nuts you like, including the Australian favourite, macadamias, or try a combination of roasted almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts and pistachios. For a Middle Eastern flavour, try pistachios and a pinch of rosewater.
Rice paper sheets
440 g (151/2 oz) mixed nuts
190 g (63/4 oz) dried fruit
50 g (13/4 oz) cocoa butter
55 g (2 oz/about 2) egg whites
30 g (1 oz) caster (superfine) sugar, for the egg whites, plus an extra 380 g (131/2 oz) caster sugar
120 g (41/4 oz) liquid glucose
100 ml (31/2 fl oz) water
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
235 g (81/2 oz/ 2/3 cup) honey
Preheat the oven to 80°C (175°F). Line the base of a 34 x 24 x 3.5 cm (131/2 x 91/2 x 11/4 inch) heatproof tray with rice paper, ensuring it is fully covered.
Put the nuts and fruit in one heatproof bowl and the cocoa butter in another.
Place both bowls in the oven to keep warm. Put the egg whites and 30 g (1 oz) caster sugar in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment.
Put the remaining 380 g (131/2 oz) caster sugar, glucose, water and vanilla seeds in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to the boil. When the temperature reaches 120°C (248°F) on a sugar thermometer, put the honey in another saucepan and bring to the boil.
Whisk the egg whites on high speed until firm peaks form.
When the honey reaches 122°C (251°F), pour it into the egg whites while still whisking on high speed.
When the sugar mixture reaches 155°C (310°F), pour it into the egg whites, still whisking. Continue to whisk on high speed for another 3–5 minutes, or until the mixture cools slightly, then reduce the speed to low and pour in the melted cocoa butter. Gradually increase the speed again until the butter has been incorporated.
Replace the whisk with the paddle attachment. Add the warm fruit and nuts and mix slowly until incorporated.
Tip the mixture onto the rice paper-lined tray and use a spatula to spread it out evenly. Place more rice paper on top to cover it completely.
Set aside overnight to set.
Cut the nougat into 2 x 6 cm (3/4 x 21/2 inch) pieces and store in an airtight container. The nougat will keep at room temperature for up to a month, or in the freezer indefinitely.
This recipe features and is from Bourke St Bakery: All Things Sweet by Paul Allam & David McGuinness,
published by Murdoch Books, $55, available now in all good bookstores and online.
Photography by Alan Benson