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A Sticky Situation

Some of you may remember I participated in a blogging event called Our Growing Edge not too long ago.  Well I set out to master another culinary tackle and was met with more hurdles than originally anticipated.  My idea was to figure out how to recreate a sweet by the name of Turrone Morbido, I discovered while in Venice, Italy last year.  The name translates as soft nougat.  I researched the topic for about a 10 days and it seemed simple enough.  How hard could it be to make a nougat based on the Italian meringue technique?  Quite difficult as it turns out.

I was determined to get this done in time to submit it for the April installment of Our Growing Edge hosted by Bunny Eats Design.  These last few days I thought I might not make it and now with a few hours left until the submission deadline, I feel like a legit food reporter.   After 4 trials, lots of messy dishes and a few relatives close to a diabetic coma I have finally succeeded.

Just in case anyone out there decides they want to try their hand at this recipe, I am going to take you through the process with lots of tips and shortcuts so that your process is not nearly as painful as mine.  In all honesty had I known what I am going to share with you, making torrone morbido would have been a breeze.  So, please do not let my dismal introduction deter you, it really can be quite simple and the payoff is completely worth it.

To begin with I should tell you that your life will be easier if you double-check your kitchen supplies to ensure that you have a scale, stand mixer, parchment paper, candy thermometer and a pastry brush in your possession.  Before beginning you should choose whether you want to mold the torrone (in which case you will need to lightly grease a mold and line the bottom with parchment paper) or shape it free-form by hand (in which case you will need to lightly grease a sheet of parchment paper and lay it flat on a work surface).  Now for the recipe:

Our Growing Edge

Torrone Morbido Made Simple

Ingredients
300g sugar
90ml water
50g egg white
250g chopped nuts or dried fruit
180g honey¹ 
 
Directions
Combine the sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Place over low heat; stir gently until the sugar is dissolved.  Cook on low 15 to 20 minutes, until the mixture reaches 275°F (135°C).  If sugar crystals form on the sides of the saucepan use a moistened pastry brush to dissolve them.  Halfway through the cooking time for the syrup, beat the egg whites on a medium low speed² until you obtain stiff glossy peaks.  Heat the honey in a small saucepan until it reaches 244°F (118°C). Once the syrup reaches the correct temperature pour it slowly into the whipped egg whites while the mixer is running on a medium low speed. 
Once the syrup is incorporated, pour the heated honey in slowly.  Continue to whip the egg white mixture for 5 – 8 minutes on medium speed² or until the outside of the mixing bowl is noticeably cooler.  The mixture should be thick and tacky; you should be able to see the tracks left behind from the whisk.  Lower the speed on your mixer and pour in your chopped nuts or dried fruit.  Beat on low for approximately 30 seconds. Using a greased rubber spatula scrape the mixture into your mold or onto your parchment paper.  Shape the torrone to your liking. 
If using a mold, cover it with plastic and perforate to allow the torrone to breathe.  If not using a mold, cover the torrone with another sheet of lightly greased parchment paper.  Let the torrone rest in a cool and dry place without direct light for 12 – 24 hours.  Use a finely serrated or very sharp hollow/Granton edge knife to cut the torrone into pieces.
 
Makes 1 disk (8-inch diameter and 3/4-inch thick )
 
¹ High humidity adjustment: Currently where I am located the weather is very humid because we are entering into rainy season.  If you live in a humid area or choose to make this recipe as a rainy day project reduce the amount of honey by 30g.
² Equipment adjustment: If you own a KitchenAid mixer medium low speed is 2-4.  The medium whipping for 5 – 8 minutes should be done on 6 – 8.  If you own a Hamilton beach mixer medium low speed is 4-6.  The medium whipping for 5 – 8 minutes should be done on 8 – 10.

Tips

  • Whip the egg whites on a low speed for the first few minutes, then increase the speed one measure and beat until stiff on that speed.  A lower beating speed creates a more stable meringue structure.
  • Heat the add-ins (nuts, dried fruits, etc.) slightly so that they are warm and above room temperature right before adding them into the torrone mixture, this will allow them to be mixed in uniformly instead of causing the torrone mixture to set up faster.
  • If you use nuts, toast them for better flavor contrast with the nougat.  If you use dried fruits, choose ones that naturally have a bit of tartness to them such as dried cranberries.
  • Choose a good quality, flavorful honey.  Even though the amount used is small, the flavor does come through and you do not want your nougat to taste like cheap commercial honey.

Shortcuts

  • This recipe uses approximately 1 large egg white (the minimum measurement I recommend trying this recipe with) but it is 100% easier to make if you double the recipe (it is easier to whip the egg whites in a stand mixer, control the sugar syrup, etc).
  • If you can heat the honey in a microwave for approximately 15 seconds or until it bubbles.  Most likely it will be at the necessary temperature and you don’t have to worry about burning it in a pot because the amount is so small.
  • You can also heat your chopped nut or dried fruits in the microwave and avoid using an oven altogether.

Ideas

  • Add a ground spice such as allspice or cardamom when you add your nuts and dried fruits.
  • Add citrus zest to brighten up the nougat and provide a nice contrast to the sweetness.
  • Try experimenting with savory or unusual add-ins such as sea salt, lavender or finely chopped rosemary.
  • If you can find edible rice or wafer paper, use that instead of parchment paper and cut the torrone with the paper for a cleaner appearance and added texture.

Troubleshooting

  • Did your sugar syrup crystallize or caramelize?  START OVER.  If you proceed to make the torrone with the crystalized or caramelized syrup it will be too soft, too sticky or crunchy in an unpleasant way.  Take my word for it, I tried it.
  • Does your torrone have an overpowering honey flavor?  Choose a milder flavored honey for the next batch and dip the current batch in dark chocolate.
  • Is your torrone too moist/sticky after resting for 12/24 hours?  Heat your oven to 225°F (108°C) for 45 minutes, allow to cool to room temperature and let the torrone rest in a cool and dry place without direct light for 2 – 4 hours.

When you are done I recommend soaking all your equipment in a sink filled with hot water for at least 30 minutes so you don’t get frustrated with cleaning.  Or better yet, bribe a friend to wash your dishes in exchange for torrone samples.  The best way to eat this in my opinion is on a cool and quiet afternoon sitting with a slice of torrone and a cup of coffee.

Happy Edge Growing everyone!

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5 responses to “A Sticky Situation

  1. Chandler, your thoroughness and detail of process is super inspirational. I’ve just closed Our Growing Edge April but you can be first in for May. Thanks for sharing your troubleshooting tips. Often I find tips more useful than recipes and the best way to grow in the kitchen is by learning how to fix things.

    I wonder, could you save crystallized sugar syrup for another use? Maybe as a sweetener for cocktails?

    • Glad you enjoyed it. Let me know if I need to resubmit the article to the May host and I can link their blog in the article.
      Crystallized sugar can almost never be reused in a pastry recipe because it will only further the damage, but yes it can be salvaged in numerous ways.
      It would work beautifully as a cocktail sweetener in muddled preparations such as a mojito, Also sprinkled as a topping on sorbets or ice creams that are not overly sweet. Even as an unusual garnish crumbled on a caprese bruschetta or herb and cheese canape. The possibilities are endless. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Starting from Scratch | The International Poor Chef School Project

  3. Helen Landau

    I also discovered this amazing desert in Venice 2 years ago. THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for sharing these recipes so generously!

    • Your welcome! My pleasure. It was so amazing that I HAD to figure it out…traveling back to eat it again would be to expensive although definitely the preferred option. This was the next best thing. Let me know how yours turns out!

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