A Very Nutty Nougat
Well folks, I can’t believe it, but it’s been a year since we moved into this little house in Waterford. A whole year. So much has happened, and yet it’s gone by in a flash. Our cat sadly died, our beautiful girl was born, we got a new puppy (who I threaten to get rid of on a daily basis – she won’t stop stealing food from the kitchen counter!), members of my family came to visit and went home again. I remember this summer seeming so far away back in September when I had to say good bye to my parents and brother.
But I shouldn’t have been so dramatic. The past six months have flown by. In a few weeks we’ll be welcoming one of my best friends to Ireland for a long-planned visit. In mid-June, the baby and I will be boarding a plane (Westjet now fly from Dublin to St. John’s!) and taking the four hour trip home to Canada. Yup, just four hours. It took my parents longer to fly to my brother on the other side of Canada. It’s a small world, really.
In between, there are first communions, a few fantastic food festivals, and lots to see and experience around the country. In Canada, we’ll be welcoming a new baby boy into the family. Good things are on the way.
This summer, I’ll be freelancing, blogging and cooking in Cape Breton for a good 2.5 months. I can’t wait to swim in the river, to pick wild blueberries, to taste the wines of the Annapolis Valley and visit the beautiful beaches we boast in Nova Scotia. I’m going to eat donairs, garlic fingers and poutine til I’m fit to burst. I’m going to really enjoy lobster season. But mostly, I can’t wait to see my family and introduce them to my baby, who have, mostly, only seen Maeve via Skype or Facebook.
I was in a celebratory mood yesterday. In one year we’ve come a very long way. This blog is almost a year old, too! I’ll be commemorating that in a different post. Yesterday, I wanted to make something indulgent.
French nougat is one of my favourite confections. It’s chewy, sweet and versatile. You can mix in whatever combination of dried fruits, nuts or sweets you want. My favourite way to have nougat, though, is with lots of toasted nuts to add a bit of earthiness and cut through the sweetness. Adding a handful of dried cranberries will add a bit of tartness which blends well with those toasty nuts. You can flavour it with citrus rinds, vanilla or spices. I chose cinnamon this time.
Any combination of nuts will do – yesterday I had some almonds, walnuts and cashews, so that’s what went into my nougat. Pistachios and hazelnuts are also good options (and the green pistachios look really pretty against the white). Kids might like their nougat with some caramel or chocolate chips added in, but for me that’s a bit of a sugar overload. At least the fruit and nuts give the illusion of it being a healthy snack!
Nutty, Fruity Nougat
1 egg white, room temperature
pinch of sea salt
pinch of ground cinnamon
1 1/3 cups white sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 Tbsp tap water
1/2 cup each walnuts, cashews, almonds & dried cranberries
- Toast and roughly chop the nuts. Set aside.
- Grease and line a cookie sheet with plastic wrap. Then, cut two pieces of parchment and lightly grease those as well. Make sure there’s plenty of overhang when you line the cookie sheet with plastic wrap.
- Add the sugar, water, cinnamon and honey into a saucepan. Heat to dissolve the sugar and then turn on high. Boil this mixture for 3-5 minutes. You can use a candy thermometer here but its really not necessary (if you do, it should register around 120 degrees Celsius when finished). You want the sugar and honey to reach the soft-ball stage of cooking – that means, if you drop a bit into a glass of cold water it turns into a firm, but soft ball.
- While the sugar mixture is boiling, beat the egg white and sea salt until soft peaks form. Once the sugar mixture has reached the right consistency, gradually and slowly pour the mixture into the egg white while beating on med-high.
- As the sugar mixture is absorbed into the egg white, you should notice the meringue becoming stiffer and glossier. This is what you want. When all of the sugar syrup has been poured into the meringue, continue to beat for 8-10 minutes until you’ve got a firm, but still pliable and mix-able meringue.
- Now, you can add the nuts and dried fruit to the mix while it’s still pliable. Use your hands (the mixture might still be pretty warm, so be careful!) like I do or a strong wooden spoon. If using your hands, grease them with a bit of vegetable oil before working the nougat.
- Once the fillings are mixed in, move the nougat to the lined cookie sheet. With one greased parchment sheet on the bottom, press the nougat into the corners and flatten it out with your hands. Put the other greased parchment sheet on top to smooth and even it out over the cookie sheet.
- Allow to set for at least two hours before removing it from the cookie sheet. When you move it, use the overhang from the plastic wrap to lift it up.
- Use a knife dipped in boiled water to portion the nougat. If you think it’s too sticky, you can coat the nougat in icing sugar. That will make it easier to handle. It will store in an airtight container for a week.