Nougat

It seemed a natural progression from marshmallows to nougat. Boiling up a sugar syrup is the base of both sweets so it wasn’t too big a leap. The recipe I used was one of Rachel Allen’s that she demonstrated on TV. I have adapted it slightly by adding both chopped toasted hazlenuts and plain chopped pistachios.

The recipe can be found here. It did take me a little longer to prepare than stated in the recipe, mostly due to the time my hob took to heat the syrup to temperature other than that it went to plan. It really is well worth the effort as the end result is a firm but softly chewable nougat without the slight plasticky chewiness that some commercial varieties have …unless of course you prefer that – but I hope not. Next time I will remove the top layer of rice paper before serving/packaging up – that’s personal preference – there’s only so much rice paper I can stand.

I am also going to experiment by cutting the nougat into neater oblongs and then coating with plain chocolate. You will need a very sharp knife to cut the nougat cleanly. A batch this size using 675g sugar + glucose produces enough to make four generous gifts for friends. Just package up in cellophane bags.

 

 Tip – if you are wondering where to buy glucose in the UK try Holland & Barrett.  I used Glucose with vitamin C that came in a 454g box.

MMMMMarshmallows

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It’s the time of year I start thinking about making treats for Christmas. Usually that’s as far as it gets – thinking about it. So last weekend I made a special effort to put some of my thoughts into action and decided that homemade marshmallows might be a fun experiment. These are definitely good enough to become small gifts for friends who neither care about their teeth or waistline… ok, ok my friends are slim and have very good teeth. They are very disciplined when it comes to their sugar intake and dental care.

For this recipe I didn’t have any kind of baking pan with perfectly square sides but I do have one with slightly rounded corners that I use for flapjacks so I used that. Please note – this has to be one of the rare occasions when I didn’t rush out to my local kitchenware shop to buy an exact pan for my needs. I am trying not to add to my stash of barely used pans/trays/rings/nozzles/baking things that I no longer recollect what they are for.

Although not particularly difficult I wouldn’t recommend you allow children to be involved making this recipe because of the very hot syrup. Instead get them to create decorated boxes or paper bags for the finished sweets. These are so good their presentation is worthy of some attention.

So for this recipe you will need:

a sugar/jam thermometer
an electric whisk
a heavy-based medium sized saucepan (one with a pouring spout makes life easier)

20cm square non-stick pan at least 5cm deep
2tbsp cornflour
2tbsp icing sugar
sunflower oil

Prepare the pan by sieving the cornflour and icing sugar together into a bowl. With a pastry brush paint the inside of the pan all over with sunflower oil. Tip the flour/sugar mix into the pan and tip the pan around making sure the base and sides are well coated. Tip the surplus back into the bowl for use later.

Vanilla Marshmallow Recipe
(makes approx. 36)

400g granulated sugar
250g water + 90g for the gelatine in a separate bowl **
2 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp gelatine powder
2 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla bean extract
pinch of table salt (not the flaky variety)
yellow food colouring (optional)

 ** I always weigh water as it is more accurate than trying to judge measurement levels by eye and it also means you can use any container.

Other flavours you could use instead of vanilla:
4 tbsp rose water 
1/2 tsp peppermint essence – be careful with this as it can easily be overpowering
1 tsp lemon extract

Choice of colours are entirely up to you or can be omitted completely.

Sprinkle the gelatine onto 90g cold water and set aside. After a few minutes push the gelatine down with the back of a spoon to get everything moistened – don’t stir it though.

Into the pan (I use a cast iron one for preference but stainless steel is fine too) put the sugar, golden syrup and 250g water into the pan and heat over a brisk heat until the sugar has dissolved then increase the heat so that the syrup boils. Keep the mixture at a boil until the temperature reaches 120 °C -  be patient – it took about 10 minutes steady bubbling on my electric hob to reach temperature.

Whilst the syrup is boiling whisk the egg whites in a heatproof bowl almost to the stiff peak stage. The boiling syrup will be poured into this so make sure the bowl is big enough and can withstand high temperatures (I used a stainless steel mixing bowl). Add the salt and whisk again until stiff peaks.

As soon as the syrup reaches temperature remove from heat immediately to prevent caramelisation. With a large metal spoon at the ready tip the gelatine and water into the hot syrup and stir until completely combined. Add the vanilla bean extract and mix. Remember this syrup is HOT so stir gently.

Make sure the bowl with the egg whites is seated on a non-slip surface and with the whisk running gently pour the hot syrup into the egg whites (avoid the beaters unless you want 3rd degree burns) and mix until it is a nice thick gloop. Don’t lose heart if the mixture looks a bit of a murky beige colour as you start – it will end up beautifully white in the end. Continue to whisk on a high speed for approximately 4 minutes more or until the mixture leaves a good ribbon trail when you lift the whisk out.

Pour half of this mixture into the prepared pan – move the pan around to ensure it gets into the corners.  Put 3 – 4 drops yellow food colouring into the remaining mixture and give it a quick whisk until it is well  combined. Pour/scrape this over the first layer in the pan and level again. Then leave at a cool room temperature for about 3 – 4 hours until completely set. Don’t put it in the fridge.

 Dust the surface of the marshmallow and a cutting board with the sugar/flour and dust your fingers too to avoid stickiness. Tip the marshmallow out onto the board – you may have to run a knife around the edges of the pan and ease it out with your fingers. It comes out in a nice “pillow”. Make sure the surface of the pillow also has a light dusting of the flour then cut with a sharp knife into cubes. I cut it into a 6 x 6 grid but you could make them slightly smaller and get more  if you are less of a glutton than me. Store in an airtight container on greaseproof paper dusted with flour/sugar and they will keep for a week.

This recipe isn’t suitable for vegetarians because of the gelatine but I plan to experiment with agar flakes soon and will blog the results.