The secret of the most delicious nougat lies in the honey and nougat you’re using. I use the Sicilian method, slightly chewy but extremely delicious. The Sicilians also believes in using almonds in their nougat. I use it with the skin on, but it is up to you. Just remember, if you decide to use blanched almonds, you need to make sure that the nuts have completely dried before you use them in the nougat. Nougat hates water or moisture of any kind. I use raw honey, supplied by a friend, Karen Otto. She produces honey at her small-holding, Rietfontein, near Darling. She markets her honey under the label Darling Honey. They also make the most delicious honey liquors and gin.
Makes about 6 – 7 bars or 18 – 21 pieces of nougat (depending on the size you cut it)
For the sugar syrup
1⅔ cups sugar
¼ cup honey
1¾ cups water
For the honey syrup
½ cup honey
For the composition
2 egg whites
1 tablespoon sugar
1½ cups whole almonds, skin on, roasted, and still warm (see note)
2 sheets of rice paper
Prepare a rectangular loose-bottomed tin of about 18 x 28 cm with a thin layer of oil spray and line the bottom with a sheet of rice paper. Keep the second sheet for later.
Prepare the sugar syrup first: In a saucepan, combine the ingredients for the sugar syrup and bring to a boil. When the temperature of the syrup reaches 118ºC on a thermometer (It takes about 20 minutes.) Continue cooking the sugar syrup. Pour the honey for the honey syrup into a smaller saucepan and bring to a boil until the temperature reaches 129ºC. Carefully watch the sugar syrup until it reaches a temperature of 152ºC.
While you’re waiting for the syrups, beat the egg whites until forming stiff peaks and slowly add the sugar while beating. Use the paddle attachment from now on and slowly add the honey syrup while the mixer is running at medium speed. Then add the sugar syrup in a slow stream. After you’ve added all the syrup, beat for 3 – 5 minutes. Add the nuts and mix well.
Scrape the nougat into the prepared tin and press into an even layer. The mixture is very hot. I spray a potato masher with oil and use it the flatten the surface. Place the other sheet of rice paper on top. Leave to stand for 30 – 45 minutes until the nougat has cooled down and is completely set. Remove the nougat from the tin and place it on a solid work surface. Use a serrated knife (preferably a bread knife) and a meat mallet or small hammer to cut the nougat into bars or pieces. Place the knife in position and hit the top of the blade with the hammer.
NOTE: Spread the nuts on a baking tin and place in a preheated oven of 200°C as soon as you start cooking the sugar syrup. Roast the nuts for 3 minutes, then switch off the oven but keep the nuts inside to retain heat. If you add cold nuts to the nougat mix, it sets too fast.