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Dark Chocolate, Hazelnut and Honey Nougat

1 April 2018

Happy Easter everyone! I hope you've all had relaxing days full of good food, wine and company. And the obligatory chocolate breakfast - because if you can't do it today, when can you? I've spent the long weekend back at home (/at my parents, when do you have to stop calling that home? Is 26 the time?) in Rutland.

My Mum is away on a girls holiday (you read that right) so it's just been me and the Burton boys, mainly eating and hiding from this awful weather. I'm not usually very good at 'chilling out' (inverted comas totally justified), but I do relish the opportunity to burrow away in the kitchen and spend time cooking slowly. That might sound mad coming from someone who cooks all the time, but life is usually so rushed and it's rare that I get to take time over things.

In my experience, that aforementioned time to take things slow often conceives the very best recipes. Call it my secret ingredient, and add half an hour to this recipe if you can. You won't regret it.

Nougat is - in my view - one of lifes great pleasures. Soft, melty and comfortingly sweet, it's a decadent fusion of childhood-sweet shop-nostalgia and classically adult flavours. In this instance, I adapted my old recipe, folding through melted and cooled dark chocolate at the last minute. I recommend you try it too! This recipe is simpler than it looks, although a sugar thermometer will make your life much easier.
150g whole hazelnuts
300g caster sugar
75g liquid glucose
150g water
90g runny honey
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 egg whites
75g dark chocolate
Icing sugar, for dusting

Heat the oven to 180°C and line a baking dish with greaseproof paper. Place the hazelnuts on a second lined baking sheet. Toast for 5-10 minutes in the oven, until the hazelnuts are smelling aromatic and have browned a little. Remove from the oven, and tip onto a clean tea towel. Cover with another tea towel, and rub vigorously to remove the skins. Discard the skins and set the nuts aside while you make the nougat. 

Place the caster sugar in a pan fitted with a sugar thermometer, reserving 1 tbsp for the egg whites. Add the glucose and water, stir, then place over a medium heat. Cook until the mixture reaches 135°C. 

While the sugar mixture is heating, place the egg whites and the reserved tablespoon of caster sugar in a very clean bowl that fits a stand mixer. Whisk to stiff peaks. 

Simultaneously, melt the dark chocolate (I use a bowl set over a pan of water/double boiler), then set aside to cool (but not set).

Once the sugar mixture reaches temperature, add the honey and salt and stir quickly. Continue to cook until the mixture reaches 145°C. Remove the thermometer, then carefully pour the mixture into the egg whites with the mixer is running on a slow speed. Once the sugar mixture has all been added, turn the speed up to high and whisk for 5-10 minutes, or until the mixture has cooled to room temperature.

 Add the hazelnuts and fold through. Add the melted chocolate, and stir once or twice (as little as you can basically) to mix. Turn the nougat out into the pre-lined baking dish. Place a second sheet of greaseproof paper on top of the nougat, and use a rolling pin to gently level the nougat. 

Leave to cool completely for a couple of hours, before slicing into pieces and dusting with icing sugar.

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