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Torrone and Nougat Recipe Ideas for Homemade Edible Gifts
Torrone is the Italian version of 'Nougat', which is the more common name in France and Britain for very similar sweets. Torrone is a lovely sweet or candy made from honey, sugar, well-whipped egg whites, vanilla, and walnuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, almonds or other nuts. It is an ancient sweet that is a challenge to make at home, but can be done by carefully following the recipe outlined below. It is very popular in Italy and Sicily.
The best time to make torrone is in winter, when temperatures are cooler and the atmosphere is drier. On a warm, humid days, torrone and nougat may become sticky and not set properly. These items make perfect gift as they last for about three weeks after being made. Torrone is popular for kids parties and as a special sweet for a dinner parties.
There are two types of torrone: morbido (soft), which is easy to chew and not crumbly, and duro (hard), which is crunchy and crumbly. The same ingredients are used for both, with the quantity of honey, sugar and nuts producing the difference is hardness.
What is the history of torrone and nougat? Various sources show that the ancient Romans made 'cuppedo' o 'cupedia', which resembled torrone and was made out of honey, cooked wine, flour and sesame. It is likely that the sweet had an Arabic origin as ‘cubbaita’, which is a sweet. The Arabs similar sweets to the Mediterranean countries such as Italy, the South of France and Spain. Torrone was produced in the 16th century in Spain, particularly in the area of Alicante. Torrone appeared as ‘Montélinar Nougat’ in France in the Middle Ages.
The famous legend of Cremona in Italy proposes that the sweet 'torrone' was created in the township of Cremona in 1441, to mark the marriage of Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti. The Court pastry chefs made the first 'torrone' to resemble the 'Torrione' or 'Torrazzo', which is the cathedral tower of Cremona. The legend contends that the name ‘torrone’ arose from the name of the tower. However it appears that the legend was only a story created by the painter Massimo Galelli, as an advertising gimmick in 1918. However, the sweet appears in documents from Cremona dating from the 1500s and so there maybe some truth to part of the story.
Torrone Recipe 1 (Simpler version with sugar and honey combined)
Preparing torrone at home is not easy and it requires considerable care in the cooking, good temperature control and continuous stirring the ingredients to generate a well-amalgamated mixture that will set properly. It is probably no coincidence that torrone was originally made by chemists rather than chefs.
- Cornstarch for dusting
- 3 whites of large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups whole almonds, blanched or pistachios, cashews, hazelnuts or other nuts
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 cup confectioners sugar
- 1 cup clover honey
- Finely grated zest of 1 large orange
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Special equipment: parchment paper; a candy thermometer
- Lightly dust a clean part of a bench with cornstarch.
- Line a 9- x 13- inch ( 22 - 33cm) baking dish with parchment paper, with excess paper hanging over edges.
- Heat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Spread nuts on a edged baking sheet. Bake the nuts until fragrant and golden (about 10-12 minutes). Put the pan on a rack to cool completely.
- Place the salt and 3 egg whites into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with whisk tool and set aside.
- Combine the sugar and honey in a heavy 4-quart ( 4 litre) saucepan and add a candy thermometer. Heat the mixture over medium heat stirring with a plastic spatula or wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture starts to simmer becomes more liquid and starts to turn cloudy).
- Continue cooking and heating, stirring every now ands then, until candy thermometer registers 315 degrees F (160 degrees C). Generally it will take about 15 minutes to get to this temperature. The mixture will start to foam and get darker in colour as temperature increases.
- Quickly beat egg whites on medium speed until firm peaks form. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until the sugar is fully incorporated. Turn off mixer, leaving bowl in place.
- Stir the sugar and honey mixture until the temperature falls to 300 degrees F ( 150 degrees C) and remove candy thermometer.
- With mixer on medium rate, slowly pour sugar and honey mixture down the side of the bowl in a gentle stream. The egg mixture will initially double in volume and them start to shrink. Continue beating for about 5 minutes until mixture has cooled to a warm temperature and starts to lighten in color.
- Add vanilla and zest and beat the mixture for about a 1 minute more. Then fold in nuts using a wooden spoon. The mixture will thicken and become very sticky as it cools.
- Turn out the torrone onto the cornstarch dusted work surface. Knead the mixture for about 5 to 6 turns, then place it into the prepared baking dish and press it to flatten and partially fill the pan.
- Put the pan on a wire rack to cool for about one hour.
- Using the overhanging parchment paper, take the torrone out of the pan and cut candy into pieces.
- Layer the pieces between sheets of parchment paper in a sealed container let stand overnight at room temperature for at least 8 hours or overnight to dry the torrone pieces. The torrone can be stored in this way layered between sheets of parchment paper, in a sealed container at room temperature, for up to 3 weeks.
© 2012 Dr. John Anderson