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Torrone Recipe - Nougat

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Torrone, otherwise known as nougat, is a concoction made from honey, well-whipped egg whites, vanilla, and walnuts or almonds; it's an ancient sweet that requires considerable skill and care to make well, and in the past was also a great favorite among pastry chefs because it can be used as a building material for making fanciful cakes and other such delights. It's made throughout Italy, and Sicily's is especially renowned.

Ingredients:

  • 1 2/3 pounds (700 g) honey
  • 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) blanched, peeled almonds
  • 1 3/4 pounds (800 g) sugar
  • 4 egg whites
  • Rice paper or edible wafers of the kind used for baking

Preparation:

Preparing torrone at home is not easy; one needs exercise great care in the cooking, stirring the ingredients constantly to obtain a well-amalgamated mixture. Begin by cooking the honey for an hour over a double boiler, stirring constantly, until it has caramelized. In terms of tests, the honey will be ready when a drop, dropped from the back of a spoon into a little cold water, solidifies.

In the meantime make a syrup with the sugar (you'll want three volumes of sugar to two volumes water), heating the mixture gently (you don't want it to darken) while stirring it constantly too lest it stick to the bottom of the pan. The syrup will be ready when a drop, dropped from the back of a spoon onto a plate, forms a white pearl.

Beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and add them, a little at a time, to the caramelized honey. Mix and continue cooking, directly over a low flame, stirring all the while. The honey will begin to expand and become frothy; continue mixing for a few more minutes and gradually incorporate the syrup, mixing well. Continue cooking and stirring, and when the mixture begins to tighten up and harden, incorporate the almonds. Mix thoroughly and turn the mixture into a pan, preferably square or rectangular in outline, that you have lined with wafers or rice paper. Cover the top of the torrone as well, and press down so as to level the torrone and press out any air bubbles that may have formed. When the torrone has cooled, turn it out onto a wafer-lined work surface, and use a sharp knife to slice it as you prefer. The best way to cut a crumbly torrone is to place the knife blade on the torrone and tap it sharply with the other hand to obtain irregularly shaped chunks of torrone. Torrone should be kept sealed in a cool dry place.

A variation: Use just 12 ounces (300 g) honey and 1 2/3 pounds (700 g) toasted hazelnuts.

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