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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!