Most of us know nougat as that ivory-colored layer of fluffiness in snickers & milky way bars. Almost marshmallow-y, but a bit thicker and more spreadable.
I am here to tell you that there is another kind of nougat.
One that is light, yet solid, and incredibly sweet. One that slowly melts on your tongue like a cloud of whipped honey. One that is tricky to make (especially the first time) but is oh so lovely and delicious when you get it right.
The first time I had this type of nougat was when I was studying abroad in Paris in 2007. There are many little candy tents stationed all over the city, especially near the metro entrances. I, being a long-time lover of any and all candies, frequented these stands often and finally decided to try the little white square that had almonds visible from the sides. It was so neat and clean and dainty-looking, just holding it made me feel like I was someone special. Then I ate it, and felt like a queen (only someone of a high-ranking monarchical authority would be allowed to eat such delicacies, of course).
So I did, with little success. The first recipe I used had an abundance of errors in it, the heating method was incorrect, the measurements were off (they converted European grams to American cups but did not do so correctly), and the mixing time was too short. On top of this I over-beat the egg whites (my bad). In the end it was quite beautiful but the texture was far too soft and gooey. Still tasty, but just not quite right.
I learned from my mistakes, however, and this time I was able to make it without much difficulty. Egg whites beaten to perfection, sugar and honey heated just so, and with everything measured on a kitchen scale, I was able to conquer the nougat beast. And I am very happy I did so. Mmmm mmmm.
Note: Do not try making this on a humid day. It won't set quite as firmly as it should. The drier the atmosphere the better. You will also need a stand mixer to make this recipe.
4 Egg Whites
2 Cups Granulated Sugar
1 and 1/2 Cups Honey
3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 and 1/2 Cups Pistachios, shells removed
1 Cup Dried Cranberries
1 Tablespoon Water
Pinch of Salt
Pinch of Cream of Tartar
Wafer or Rice Paper, enough to line and also cover a 9 x 13 inch pan
Line a 9 x 13 inch baking pan with wafer paper and set aside. In a medium-large and thick-bottomed pot, heat the sugar, honey, and water over medium-high heat until the temperature reaches 315 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring every five minutes and then more often once the temperature exceeds 250 degrees. (The mixture will get very foamy and bubbly on top the hotter it gets, this is supposed to happen so don't get scared.) Once it reaches 315 degrees Fahrenheit turn off the heat and allow it to cool down to about 300 degrees while you start beating the egg whites.
Beat the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar with a whisk attachment at medium-high speed until firm peaks form. Then slowly drizzle in the melted sugar-honey mixture in a thin but continuous stream (still beating at a medium-high speed) until all of the sugar-honey mixture has been added (it should take about 4 minutes to add it all, just to give you an idea of how slowly it should be incorporated).
Continue beating the mixture at medium-high speed for 15-20 minutes until it has roughly tripled in volume. It will start out very golden in color but as it is whipped it will begin to turn ivory. Then add the powdered sugar a little at a time over a period of about two minutes and continue mixing until it is fully incorporated. Then mix in the pistachios and dried cranberries at a lower speed.