What is nougat? We’ve all been seeing the term thrown around in lots of new recipes and cooking publications but what is it actually?
Let us help clear up the confusion.
Nougat essentially describes a type of sweet made with sugar or honey and some type of nut—usually almonds, pistachios, or hazelnuts. It can be soft and chewy like caramel or hard and brittle, but it’s always sticky, according to a renowned professional French confectionary manufacturer.
There are two types of nougat: white and brown.
White nougat is a combination of egg whites, sugar and honey and chopped nuts. It refers to a French candy made by whipping egg whites until they are light and frothy. Boiling hot sugar or honey syrup is added to stabilize the egg foam creating a fizzy, bubbly mixture. Roasted nuts are then added. A number of other flavoring ingredients can then be added to create nougat with different flavors.
Nougat is also known as torrone in Italy and turron in Spain.
Most historians believe that nougat comes from ancient Rome where a sweet made from honey, almonds, and eggs was made and reserved for special functions. The first known documentation in Italy of “torrone” was in the year 1441 in Cremona, where at the wedding a new sweet was created in the couple’s honor.
Other historians think that the nougat traces back to a Greek walnut confection known as “nux gatum” or nut cake.
Similar to marshmallows in that nougat is also made from whipped egg whites and boiled sugar syrup. However, unlike marshmallow, nougat is pressed with weights during the drying process, resulting in a compact, dense and chewy candy rather than something airy. Nuts or dried fruit are often added to the candy before it is poured in a pan, covered in rice paper or wax paper, and pressed under heavy weights for an overnight finishing period.
The nougat found in many commercially manufactured candy bars these days is substantially different from traditional nougat recipes, being a mixture of sucrose and corn syrup beaten with a whipping agent such as hydrolyzed soy protein. Vegetable fats, milk powder and nuts may also be added.
Brown nougat is a denser version made using roasted hazelnuts, sugar, cocoa butter, chocolate, lecithin and vanilla. The ingredients are not cooked but rather ground and mixed. The different ratios of ingredients determine the texture of the finished candy which can vary from firm and hard to creamy and spreadable. It is this type of nougat--brown nougat--that brings us nougat powder and nougat chips to add a rich nutty flavor to so many baked treats and candy confections.
By now you know that you can get brown nougat in powder form and chips at The Peppermill. White nougat can also be purchased but is actually fun to make. We’ve got a simple recipe for you here. Use a candy thermometer to ensure it comes out perfect.
2 cups sugar
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
6 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 ounces nougat powder
1 1/2 cups hazelnuts (about 8 ounces), toasted and chopped
8 ounces nougat chips
1 pound white coating chocolate for dipping (optional)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat mats or parchment paper; set aside.
Put oil, sugar, eggs, salt, and vanilla in the bowl of electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, and mix on medium speed until combined.
Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and nougat powder into a bowl.
Reduce mixer speed to low. Add flour mixture; mix until combined. Stir in hazelnuts and nougat chips.
Divide dough into six equal parts; shape each into a long log about 8-10” long by 3 inches wide. Place logs 4 inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake logs until golden, puffed, and just firm to the touch, about 35 minutes. Let cool slightly for about 5 minutes.
Using a long serrated knife, slice biscotti diagonally, about 1” thick.
Lay biscotti back in the pan, cut side up and return to the oven. Bake 5 minutes longer until slightly crisped. Remove from oven and cool on a cooling rack.
If you like, chop the white chocolate and melt in a double boiler or microwave. Dip biscotti halfway into the melted chocolate; dipping on an angle is nicest. Place biscotti back on the rack to dry.