#1 – 48 recipes challenge: Recipe 33 – Pistachio and Cranberry Torrone
This month I was asked to provide petit fours as a contribution to a Christmas lunch hosted by a friend of mine. Instead of buying them, I thought this would make a good subject for one of my 48 recipes so I decided I’d have a go at making some. I didn’t want to stick with the obvious and I wanted to provide a variety. Accordingly, I found this recipe for Torrone (which is basically the Italian name for nougat), http://www.marthastewart.com/318939/pistachio-cranberry-torrone incorporating cranberry and pistachio which I thought were great Christmas flavours. How lovely it would be to have neat little squares of torrone alongside more traditional petit fours; I thought. And I can parcel up the remainder and give it as Christmas gifts; I thought.
The recipe is far more complicated than anything I would normally attempt but I had a whole free Saturday and what better to do than try something challenging in the kitchen? The first issue was to find out what corn syrup is (the recipe is American). Whilst standing in the baking aisle in Sainsbury’s, Google eventually informed me that light corn syrup can be substituted for golden syrup and dark corn syrup for treacle. The next issue (I didn’t think this one through) was that I bought pistachios which were still in their shells. Do you have any idea how long it takes to shell one and a half cups of pistachios? No. Neither did I. It took an age and my thumbs were super sore by the end of it. The torrone was supposed to be set between rice paper, which I remember being freely available when I was a child. Apparently now it’s a specialist ingredient and you can only obtain it online. I figured silicone paper would do the job. You’ll notice that this is already quite a number of ingredients issues with one recipe… It didn’t get any better when I actually read the recipe and realised that technically I needed both a stand mixer and a sugar thermometer, neither of which I own. I soldiered on regardless, sure I could manage. Note to self (again) – must learn to read recipes all the way through, thoroughly, before trying to make them.
I really should know by now that in a kitchen, the pastry section is an exact science. You can’t just wing it and hope for the best. Measurements have to be precise, methods have to be followed to the letter. In this case, the sugar, honey, golden syrup mix needed to be heated to 300 degrees. Without a sugar thermometer I had absolutely no idea when this would be. I simply boiled the mix for about 15 minutes and hoped that would be ok. I then whisked the egg whites, beat in all the other ingredients and turned it into the tin to set. At this stage, it looked approximately as I would expect nougat to look.
However, set it did not. The next morning it was still as runny as when I had poured it into the tray. I put it in the fridge and left it overnight. Still not set. I tried the freezer. Overnight. Still runny. I did attempt to cut it, but it was just flowing all over the work surface. There was clearly no way this stuff was ever going to solidify. I figured I could try to cut it into squares and then toss them in icing sugar in the hope they would hold their shape and not stick together (much as you do with Turkish Delight), but all that happened when I tried that was that they absorbed the icing sugar, became even more sickly sweet and still stuck together.
Surprisingly, the gooey mess I had created tasted pretty much as I would expect nougat to taste. The problem with it was that the consistency was just completely wrong. The only way this stuff could be eaten was with a spoon. This was not going to work as petit fours, nor could it be parcelled up as Christmas gifts.
I assume that this went so disastrously wrong because I didn’t get the honey mix to the correct temperature, and/or that the egg whites weren’t stiff enough. This is the first one of my 48 recipes which has been a complete and total fail. Having done a bit more research, it seems that I shouldn’t be too disappointed. If I’d just read this recipe instead: http://italianfood.about.com/od/tastysweettreats/r/blr1119.htm I would probably never have even attempted a torrone in the first place. I quote: “Preparing torrone at home is not easy; one needs exercise great care in the cooking, stirring the ingredients constantly to obtain a well-amalgamated mixture.” This recipe also advises cooking the honey for an hour, so clearly I didn’t give that long enough!
I think this one was doomed to failure from the start simply because I didn’t have the right kit, I was too impatient and I should have read the recipe thoroughly before even buying the ingredients. This is not a recipe I’ll be attempting again! Scores are:
Healthiness – 0/10 (nothing health about this, pure sugar!)
Ease of prep – 0/10 (too much equipment needed, requires several hours spare and your kitchen will get seriously sticky)
Flavour/taste – 7/10 – (nothing wrong with the way this tasted, just completely the wrong consistency)
As for the petit fours, I bought some chocolate truffles and then fell back on tried and tested recipes such as mini raspberry cheesecakes, peppermint creams and simply stuffing some dates with an amaretto marzipan:
No one missed the nougat!