Nougat single

An ever expanding list of recipes for testing and experimentation, seems to be a staple ingredient of most passionate bakers and cooks.  You may recognise the scene.  Cookbooks and magazines piled high (and in every available space), heavily labeled with must-tries.  Online bookmarks overfilling with endless websites and blog pages tagged for future reference.  Folders brimming with an eclectic mix of articles, food stories and notes inspiring a never-ending set of ideas.

Underpinning this endless inspiration, is the constant niggling that there never is enough time to bake (or cook) everything you want.  The quick math tallying up all the recipes on your list quickly reveals a massive disconnect against the available time.

Like many, for me, baking is limited to the weekend – albeit on odd occasion, I do whip up a simple, quick, weeknight dessert, upon Mr Mélanger’s request.  So each month, as I focus on a theme of recipes, ideas or sweet dishes, I essentially prioritise my always-growing-and-I-feel-I-will-never-put-a-dent-in list of must-try recipes.

Not ever being one to ‘wing it’ as such, I am quite systematic in my approach to my monthly themes.  A self-selected set of criteria determines what recipes are in, and what recipes are out.

Does the recipe explore a new style or origin of a dish?
Does the recipe help perfect a new technique?
Does the recipe celebrate a new season or holiday?
Does the recipe share the essence of one of my favourite recipes?
Does the recipe inspire me?

If it ticks all the boxes, it is typically in.  If it only ticks a few boxes, it is on the short list.

You may think this is quite a clinical approach.  Perhaps.  But for me, to put a list of recipes and ideas together, that will push your technique, help you learn something new, or put a new spin on a favourite, is so rewarding.  Particularly when you achieve an outcome at the end of the month.  (Also knowing you are chipping away at your ever growing list, is quite satisfying, too!)

This post is focused on nougat.  It ticked many of the boxes above.  It explored a new style of petits fours, the focus for the month.  It included a technique I wished to perfect. But most importantly, it ticked the last box.

I was inspired by nougat.  Well, a particular nougat recipe.

Nougat set

Last year, I celebrated my wedding day during Rosh Hashanah.  Being very familiar with this Jewish new year celebration, particularly from my time living in Boston, there was no better sign for me that my marriage was off to a great start.

During the lead up to my wedding day, I remember many of my favourite blogs showcasing a sweet selection of desserts in celebration of Rosh Hashanah.  One of my daily, must-read blogs, MyKugelhopf, strayed from the traditional fruit or honey cake.   Kerrin @MyKugelhopf explored a sweet twist indeed on the Jewish new year with fig and pistachio nougatC’est parfait! The combination of fruit and honey in this chewy, white confection, rolled together all the key flavours of the holiday in an unexpected way.

Since my wedding day, it has indeed been a sweet, happy new year for me and Mr Mélanger.  To commemorate, here is my own nougat effort.  Not only a perfect, bite-sized petits fours choice, but a wish for more sweet days ahead.

{ Pistachio and cranberry nougat }

Recipe adapted from The Fundamental Techniques of Classic Pastry Arts (by the French Culinary Institute), and Fig and pistachio nougat recipe from MyKugelhopf.

* Ingredients *
45g egg whites, room temperature
200g pistachios
140g cranberries
140g honey
120g light corn syrup or glucose syrup
300g sugar
Cornflour / cornstarch for dusting

* Directions *
Preheat oven to 93C or 200F.  Line a baking tray with parchment paper.  Add the pistachios and gently roast for about 10-15 minutes or until nicely coloured.  While roasting, prepare the base.  Place the egg white in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Combine the honey and sugar in a small, heavy bottomed saucepan with the syrup plus 40ml of water.  Begin whipping the egg whites while the honey-sugar mixture comes to a boil.  When the mixture reaches 139C/266F pour it over the whipping egg whites.  When the meringue begins to stiffen, stop the mixer. Remove the whisk attachment and replace with the paddle attachment.  With the speed on low, add the nuts and dried fruit.  Place a silicone liner on a clean, flat work surface.  Dust with cornflour.  Pour the hot nougat out onto the liner.  Dust the top with more cornflour.  Place a second liner over the nougat and roll out to 1.3 cm (1/2 in) thick.  Allow to cool and then cut into 2.5cm (1 in) squares.  Serve or store, airtight, at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Makes 15-25 squares.