Pillows of nutty torrone
Torrone is a nougat confection that Italians enjoy around the holidays. The soft, pliable nougat goes perfectly with all kinds of nuts and added flavors (citrus zest and vanilla are popular). I especially like making it with pistachios for the holidays.
Prepare the pan
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper, then place the edible paper on top. For my torrone recipe, if you'd like very thick torrone, use just one sheet of edible paper. For thinner pieces (as in the last slide), lay out two sheets, side by side.
Prepare the nuts
Line a sheet pan with parchment and spread the nuts in an even layer over the top. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Depending on the type of nuts you use, you'll want to toast them to bring out the oils and flavor. If you are using hazelnuts, toast, then rub off the skins before using. Pistachios should not be toasted. All nuts, regardless of type, should be placed in a preheated oven for a minute or two to warm them before adding them to the nougat. This will allow them to be folded in more easily and evenly.
Wash the edges, finish mis en place
Using a pastry brush dipped in clean, cool water, wash all of the residue off the sides of the pot before turning on the heat. This will help prevent the sugar from crystallizing or burning. Before you turn on the heat, place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, and have the confectioner's sugar, salt, and any desired flavorings measured and ready.
Heat the syrup mixture
Over medium heat, bring the sugar mixture to 310°F. Expect this to take 10 - 20 minutes, depending on the pot that you use. Watch the mixture and thermometer carefully; the syrup will bubble and rise up, then settle back down as it cooks. Once it hits 270°F it will climb very fast! Once the syrup hits 310°F, remove it from the stove and allow it to cool, stirring occasionally, until it returns to 300°F.
Whip the egg whites
As the sugar mixture is cooling a bit, add the salt and begin whisking the egg whites on medium speed until they are frothy. Slowly add the confectioner's sugar and increase the mixer speed gradually, until it is running on high speed. Bring the meringue to soft peaks, then turn the mixer down to its lowest setting, until the sugar has come down to 300°F.
Aerate the nougat
Once all the syrup has been added, beat the nougat for approximately 5 minutes, until the whisk begins making trails that stay in the bowl and the thickened nougat gathers in the center of the whisk.
Add warmed nuts
Once the nougat is ready, fold in the warmed nuts with a spatula or big wooden spoon. You'll need to apply the elbow grease here to get the job done.
Turn out the nougat
Dust a work surface with a good amount of corn or potato starch and scrape the contents of the bowl out onto it. Use caution; the bowl may still feel hot. Dust the top of the mound with additional starch.
Shape to fit the edible paper
Dust off as much additional starch as you can, so the nougat will adhere to the paper. Then, gently press the nougat into the pan, just to the edge of the edible paper. Aim to get a very smooth, even surface.
Top with more edible paper
Dust off all of the excess starch, and press a top layer of paper onto the nougat. Allow it to sit for half an hour, then flip it over in the pan, so the bottom paper ends up on top.
Oil the knife
There are a few different ways to cut torrone, but they all take a little patience. To get the fluffy soft texture that makes this candy so awesome, you have to put up with stickiness. Once way to avoid this, at least for a few cuts, is by oiling the knife with a neutral oil. Be sure to clean the knife each time sticky nougat starts to build up.