How to make nougat

Nougat can be tricky, so find out how to make this surefire favourite with our step-by-step guide. And it’s sure to impress friends and family, assuming you can stop yourself eating it all as soon as it’s ready. Makes an ideal Christmas gift, all wrapped up in cellophane.

How to make nougat

Sweet, sticky nougat has many incarnations. It ranges from refined, lightly perfumed restaurant petits fours to sickly sweet artificial pink-and-white goo bought at fairgrounds by harassed parents. But there’s no magic needed to make it, simply precision and a fair amount of patience.

Hazelnut, almond and pistachio nougat

Makes 40-50 squares | Hands-on time 45 min, plus cooling

The nougat will keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 2 weeks. If you’re not serving it immediately or giving it as a gift, leave it whole, or the soft squares may lose their shape.

Ingredients

  • 150g each blanched almonds and hazelnuts, toasted (see tips) and roughly chopped
  • 100g skinned pistachios, roughly chopped
  • 225g granulated sugar
  • 140g clear honey
  • 1½ tbsp liquid glucose (from the baking aisle of large supermarkets)
  • 2 large free-range egg whites
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Method

  1.  Heat the oven to 100°C/fan80°C/gas ¼. Put the nuts on a baking tray lined with baking paper and keep warm in the oven.
  2. Line a 20cm square tin with rice paper (see tips). Put the sugar, honey, liquid glucose and 110ml water in a heavy-based saucepan and stir over a very low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Once it’s fully melted, turn up the heat and boil rapidly. Keep monitoring the temperature.
  3. When the boiling sugar reaches 150°C, whisk the egg whites in a stand mixer or in a large mixing bowl with an electric hand mixer until they reach the soft peak stage (peaks formed by removing the whisk will droop).

  4. When the sugar syrup reaches 160°C (known as the hard-crack stage), slowly but steadily, whisking all the time, pour the hot sugar syrup into the whisked egg whites, making sure it doesn’t touch the sides of the bowl or the beaters.

  5. Once all the syrup has been added, keep whisking until the mixture is extremely thick. When it feels like your mixer is about to give up the ghost, add the warm chopped nuts and the vanilla extract, then manually stir them through.

  6. Spoon the mix into the prepared tin, scraping it out with a spatula or metal spoon, then press a second piece of rice paper on top and flatten it out. Put a board on top, weigh it down with tins of tomatoes or bags of rice, then cool completely. Turn out and cut into squares.

Nutritional information

PER square (for 50) 77kcals, 4.5g fat (0.4g saturated), 1.6g protein, 7.3g carbs (6.9g sugars), no salt, 0.3g fibre

 Tips for success

  • Don’t rush things at the start. Don’t let the sugar syrup bubble before all the sugar grains have melted. Boiling too early increases the risk of the sugar crystallising, and if that happens you’ll have to start all over again. Having said that…
  • You need to work quickly. Once the sugar has melted and the syrup starts to rise in temperature, it will quickly get to 160°C, so keep an eye on it. When it reaches the right temperature, whisk it into the egg whites as soon as you can. Also, make sure your tin is completely prepared and the nuts are warming in the oven before you start.
  • Be assertive. If you’ve whisked it enough (see above), the nougat will be extremely stiff by the time you come to put it in the tin. It will take a lot of effort to scrape all the mixture from the bowl, then flatten it down, but it’s worth it for the beautiful nougat at the end.
  • Control the mess. The mixture is super-sticky and will stick to anything it touches. Have a spatula or metal spoon to hand to transfer the nougat mixture from the bowl of the mixer to the tin, and a cutlery knife to scrape it down (although you may just end up using your finger). A good tip is to rest the cutlery on a spare piece of rice paper or a strip of baking paper. They’re both nicely non-stick and can be thrown away afterwards.
  • You’ll need a stand mixer (or heavy-duty electric hand mixer and an extra pair of hands to pour in the syrup), plus a digital or sugar thermometer and rice paper (try lakeland.co.uk).
  • To toast the nuts, cook them for 10 minutes on a baking tray in an oven heated to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4.
  • Make sure the sugar/honey syrup reaches the hard-crack stage (160°C on a digital thermometer). This high temperature helps the syrup to set and also gives it a slightly bitter edge (like caramel) to balance the sweetness. The addition of honey gives the nougat a more rounded flavour, which works well with the nuts.
  • Put the chopped and toasted nuts in a very low oven to warm them before you stir them through the mixture.
  • Once you’ve added the sugar syrup to the whisked egg whites, beat the mixture until your mixer seems to be struggling. You’ll end up with a nougat that holds its shape and cuts beautifully but is soft enough that it won’t play havoc with your teeth. You can’t really over-do it – the longer it’s beaten the thicker the mixture will become.

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