Epic fail on that series of king cake related posts. So sorry!
Time slipped away from me but I have all the pictures uploaded and ready… 🤔 So I’m writing them up and saving them for next year—this time earlier in the season!
I had a recent realization that might seem quite obvious based on my recent blog posts, I just love the science and engineering behind making things. My projects range from the functional to the pretty (but useless), delicious and incredibly bad for you treats to vegan, gluten-free snacks and just everything in between. If there’s a new-to-me technique for anything from baking to woodworking, I want to try it.
I am not 100% sure how I got into this particular deep dive. Except that I have some Annalee bunnies I want to send to family and then thought it would be nice to include some Easter candy… So or course I wound up trying to make my own candy.
It’s getting warmer and I wasn’t sure that homemade chocolate candies would hold up well in shipping. I also have done a lot of chocolate work recently. It can be difficult and messy. I didn’t want to get into all that but little did I know nougat is also difficult and arguably more messy than chocolate work.
What is nougat?
You’re probably most familiar with it as something you eat only when inside of candy bars. Snickers, Milky Way and Baby Ruth to name a few. It’s this sort of unknown, cream-colored, chewy … stuff? There’s also a brown nougat which is made a bit differently.
According to internet reading, the name nougat derives from Latin words panis nucatus which translate to “nut bread.” The treat itself likely originated in the Middle East.
In practice, nougat is essentially caramel whipped into egg whites with lots of whole nuts added. When I see the amount of nuts that go into these recipes it just seems like it cannot be right but the end result does have a nice distribution. It’s the most incredibly sticky substance I’ve ever worked with. If they do another season of Baking Impossible, future contestants should take note because it looks very similar to bathroom caulk and I think if you nail the candy making part would get quite firm once cooled.
Fortunately, sugar melts so you can get it off everything with some hot water. In the meantime, grease anything that will touch the nougat and isn’t supposed to become a permanent part of it.
Because I can’t do anything small, I decided to make three types of nougat.
The first recipe that got me onto this whole fixation was this one for a strawberry pistachio nougat.
I loved the pink and green for an Easter candy and thought I would look for another that uses matcha because I had some on hand and that seemed like a nice compliment. All of the recipes I found for that were used making marshmallow (and only on YouTube?). Marshmallow is very similar to nougat with sugar syrup/caramel whipped into gelatin rather than egg whites. So it kind of strikes me as an easier approach to get similar results.
I used this one with some edits I’ll describe later.
Finally I wanted to make some just traditional nougat as a basis for comparison. I found this recipe for one using hazelnut, almond and pistachio but left out the pistachio since I already have that dominating another recipe.
How did it go?
I went with the matcha nougat first since it seemed easier and baby steps. It was incredibly easy to make. The recipe called for peanuts but I didn’t have any (and wanted to be fancy) so I used toasted walnuts. I debated adding the graham cracker cookies but decided to go with it.
The taste is somewhat bland if I’m being honest. You get the green tea but just barely. Later experiments make me think this is just a feature of nougat and probably why we primarily eat it covered in chocolate.
It was a baby step into dealing with stickiness but definitely not what I would encounter later. They had to be stored with parchment paper between them but I would not need to also grease the parchment paper like with other nougat recipes. This recipe feels akin to rice crispy treats when you consider stirring cookies into melted marshmallow and butter but did not taste strongly like marshmallow.
Next up was the traditional nougat. This went… very, very strangely.
I struggled to get my candy syrup to the right temperature and I think that I probably did not cook it properly. This recipe also adds butter at the end. I’d halved the recipe and forgot to do so with the butter. Perhaps because of those things and perhaps not, I wound up with this really odd substance to work with in the kitchen. It seemed related to that slime kids are always making.
I could cut the end result into bars but if two bars sat together they would merge into one without giving away that it had even happened. A non-Newtonian fluid. Lots of things in the kitchen actually are but they’re more obvious like honey. This looked solid and kind of felt like putty but also would fill a container over time.
I could obviously not send something like or my little nephew would just wind up with nougat permanently embedded in his hair, clothes and everything within 10 feet of eating it. So despite having specifically decided not to work with chocolate, I decided it was time to use chocolate and encase this nougat in a safer sugar delivery system—candy bars. I had some bar moulds so I got to work cutting the nougat to size and melting chocolate.
I’m not sure if my logic was sound here but I didn’t want to add something like coconut oil or butter to the chocolate because I thought that would be more likely to melt. I found that using 10% white chocolate might help make a better coating chocolate and had some on hand so I went with that.
I was pleasantly surprised wit the results! It’s like… a candy bar. But so incredibly rich you could barely eat more than 1/2 a bar at a time.
I think there was just too much chocolate and the balance was off so I switched to making these more like a turtle candy than bar.
Having finished these, I finally feel ready to make my serious attempt at the strawberry pistachio nougat.
I cooked it long enough, I did increase the volume of strawberry by a lot to try and get more flavor. I did not remember to grease the parchment paper…
Other than that, it went pretty smoothly. My kitchen sink is full of dishes and it’s slowly cooling. I also took more process shots this time around.
Overall, I don’t think I would make nougat again. It just isn’t that tasty and too much work to then cover in chocolate when there are so many easier and tastier desserts that can be made by covering things in chocolate. It was a great learning experience though!