I don’t know what the adults drank, but I was usually able to wangle a bottle of creaming soda into the basket and sometimes, if Dad was in the mood, a box of Callard & Bowsers nougat. Individually wrapped in silver paper, and then rice paper, these sweet treats were the epitome of sophistication for a girl in the Perth suburbs and a real symbol that it was a special night. A red letter evening was if we also had the rare treat of party pies for dinner prior to the guests’ arrival. Oh, the glamour of it all.
I’ve outgrown party pies and creaming soda, but nougat still holds a place in my heart and I’ve made a few batches in my time. I love the magic that transforms beaten egg whites and boiling sugar syrup into a fluffy confection that can hold all manner of delicious extras. The recipes I’ve made in the past boil the sugar, glucose and honey all together, so I was a little sceptical of our recipe where the honey is heated separately. I questioned food editor Ang and she told me that this results in a better texture and is the truly authentic way to make nougat – I decided to trust her and gathered my ingredients.
Anything that involves sugar syrup is not a time to be distracted – so don’t be tempted to answer the phone or get involved in a new plot twist in Toddlers & Tiaras (or is that just me?). Concentrate! I love chopped Turkish delight and toasted almonds in nougat, but had run out of (um, eaten) all the Turkish delight, so decided to make an almond praline instead. Simple, right? I’d done it plenty of times before but somehow managed to crystallise the sugar instead of turning it into caramel (swirl, don’t stir). I pushed on and poured it over my almonds anyway. Mistake and the whole lot went into the bin. A quick look in the pantry turned up a block of dark chocolate and some glacé cherries – perfect! Choc-cherry nougat coming up.
I got my sugar syrup started and set the honey over a pot of simmering water as instructed. The physics student in me could not understand how boiling water at 100°C was going to heat honey, in a bowl, to 130°C. I was patient and waited the allotted five minutes but a quick temperature check with the sugar thermometer (essential piece of equipment) showed that it was only at about 70°C. Meanwhile, my sugar and glucose syrup was merrily heading towards 146°C. I took action and poured the honey into a fresh saucepan. Bingo, the temperature began to rise and we hit the magic 130°C in no time. The boiling honey is poured in a thin stream into the softly beaten eggwhites – the aroma is fantastic and the mixture turns thick and glossy at once. You’ll need a stand mixer for this recipe – do NOT attempt to pour a hot syrup into a bowl while using a hand mixer. It will not end well. Honey done, the sugar syrup was next. As I poured this into the bowl, the mixture began to rapidly increase in volume and came dangerously close to overflowing. Eeek! Hot nougat all over the kitchen bench? No, thanks. I stopped pouring and, within about 30 seconds, the mixture subsided again. I added more syrup and the same thing happened. So again, I stopped, waited, subsided and then proceeded with the last of the syrup. It was a close shave, but disaster averted.
I let the mixer do its thing for about six minutes – really, I can’t believe that toddler is wearing an Elvis outfit and drinking go-go juice – and then stirred in the chocolate and cherries. The nougat was still pretty warm at this stage, so the chocolate melted and created a beautiful marbled effect. I poured it into the pan – lined with baking paper then rice paper, topped it with more rice paper and smoothed the top. Into the fridge for a couple of hours – which gave me plenty of time to lick the beaters and bowl (Mr Ed was out so I didn’t have to fight him for it).
The result – lovely light nougat that’s chewy without pulling your teeth out. The chocolate marble looked fabulous and there were a few whole chunks in there as well. This wasn’t the easiest nougat I’ve made – you do have to be on your game – but it’s definitely the best and I’ll be making another batch soon.
What childhood dinner party memories do you have?
Editor, SBS Feast