Nougat with Pistachio Cherry, Maureen Abood

Perhaps it was growing up in Michigan, where billowy, tall drifts of snow surrounded us for several months of the year, that began my intense quest for white, glossy, marshmallow-esque sweets.

Perhaps it was the cookbook that shaped so much of my childhood kitchen adventures—the Betty Crocker book, candy and cakes chapters in particular—that at least got me going, and probably more so solidified what would become a lifelong, some might say unnatural, pleasure in whipping egg whites. The book has meant so much to me that I’ve framed a photo of it and hung it on the wall in the kitchen. Because while I do have my own copy, it’s my mom’s, all coming apart and wrapped with a layer of her wallpaper from back in the day, that is the prize.

Betty Crocker Cookbook, Maureen AboodPistachios, Maureen AboodPan with parchment, Maureen Abood

Every Christmas I got all jazzed to make Betty’s recipe for divinity (so aptly named). I’m pretty certain my mom and I were the only ones in the house who ate the sticky, airy meringue-style, nut-studded confection with complete abandon. But at least I had a friend to share in the fluff-love.

I’m not sure what transpired to take the divinity off of our holiday sweets list, but neither of us made any for years. When I was in culinary school at Tante Marie’s a few years ago, we had a candy-making week that brought me back around to my divinity, but took that a step in another, oh-so-right direction as nougat. Ask my classmates: I jumped up and down when we made the stuff, and was secretly glad my friends out there were all in culinary school too and would have their own batches of nougat, so I wouldn’t have to give any of mine away.

After that, I thought I’d be going after nougat-making at least every holiday season and finding an excuse to make it at Valentine’s Day and Easter too, so much so that I bought a huge stack of rice paper (edible wafer paper the pros use to keep the edges of the nougat from being sticky)—and never used a single sheet. Still, I’ve hauled the wafer paper around in all of my moves thinking every time I move it: I can’t wait to make nougat!

Nougat slices on parchment, Maureen AboodNougat pistacho cherry, Maureen Abood

This week, my inspiration for the nougat is not a gorgeous snow drift (while we had those last month, lately a dry spell has been a welcome reprieve before Michigan winter lets it rip). Or a beloved cookbook.

Instead the inspiration is rooted in . . . well . . . doctor’s orders. I know it is completely bizarre and psychiatrist-worthy to turn to sweets even when I’m trying to heal a digestive problem, one that dogged me another unfortunate time years ago (I was in France and made the kind of endless, ill flight home that one wouldn’t wish on the worst sort of enemy), a hereditary issue that also dogged my father (thanks Baba).

Nougat slice, Maureen AboodBut to be told I can’t have ANY fat in my diet for a time, just as I’m revving into the season of utter butter? Just as I’m lining up every cookie and cake recipe to go full-tilt baking (and eating)? Wehhhehhhellll.

Fine then. But I’m not giving up everything. I’m not doing it. I may not be able to have my glass of wine and plate of rich holiday fare, but I will find a way to have my sweet.

Enter nougat, my darling white chew. You’ve come to my rescue. You I love to make, and you I can eat. No fat (other than a nut here and there; I’m making batches without, too). No problem. And don’t get me wrong: you’re not a consolation prize, nougat. You’re just…divine.

Nougat slices on a board, Maureen Abood

Nougat with Pistachios and Dried Cherries (low-fat, chewy goodness)
 
You can sandwich the nougat in wafer paper for a very clean and smooth look (line the pan with parchment as directed, then the bottom of the pan with the wafer paper, trimmed to fit the pan. Press another sheet over the nougat in the pan while it’s still warm). If your wafer paper has sat on the shelf too long and gone bad, as mine has, or you aren’t even remotely about to go out and find wafer paper, a mix of confectioner’s sugar and cornstarch works great to keep the sticky at bay. Also: candy thermometer is important here.
Ingredients
  • 2 tablespoons neutral oil, such as canola or safflower
  • ¼ cup confectioner’s sugar
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • 2 cups shelled pistachios
  • 2 cups dried cherries
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1⅔ cups plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar, divided
  • ½ cup honey (I prefer creamed raw honey for its flavor)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Few drops rose water (optional)
Instructions
  1. Heat the oven to 200°F. Line the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch square pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang of the paper by a couple of inches on two sides to form a sling that will assist in removing the candy from the pan. Very lightly brush the parchment and all sides of the pan with a teaspoon or so of the oil.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the confectioners sugar and cornstarch. Sift half of the mixture over the bottom of the prepared pan.
  3. Place the pistachios on a sheet pan in the oven and keep them warm there until you’re ready to mix them into the nougat. If the dried cherries are sticking together in clumps, separate them into individual cherries.
  4. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the pinch of salt until soft but distinct, nearly stiff, peaks form. Add the tablespoon of sugar and whip for a few seconds.
  5. In a heavy medium saucepan, bring all but 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the honey, and water to a boil. Clip a candy thermometer on the side and watch closely as the syrup boils, until it reaches 253°F (this only takes a few minutes). Remove the thermometer and start whipping the egg whites again.
  6. Slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream, beating at high speed. Continue beating at high speed for about 12 minutes, or until the mixture has tripled in volume and has cooled slightly (it will still be quite warm).
  7. Add a few drops of rose water, if using (off of a spoon, not directly from the bottle, to avoid pouring in too much) and beat that into the mixture.
  8. Brush a rubber spatula with oil and use that to stir the warm pistachios and dried cherries into the stiff nougat. Scrape the nougat into the prepared pan. Coat your hands with oil and press the nougat into the pan, flattening the top evenly. Sift the remaining confectioners sugar mixture over the top of the nougat.
  9. Cool the nougat for at least 2 hours, then lift it from the pan using the parchment overhang. Brush the edges of a long, sharp chef’s knife with oil and cut the nougat into strips about 1½ inches wide, then into pieces about 3 inches long, brushing the knife with oil before every cut.
  10. Store the nougat in an airtight container or on a platter covered with plastic wrap.

 

 

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25 Responses to "Nougat with Pistachios and Dried Cherries (low-fat, chewy goodness)"
  1. Amanda says:

    This. Is on my list. Thank you!

  2. Loved this blog and the recipe. It sounds perfect. I found the wafer paper on Amazon. Last year I made your orange blossom caramels. And I was going to make them again, but I like the idea of less fat. Maybe I’ll make both. I also love that you framed the cookbook cover. I have framed bakery box tops and hung them in mine.

  3. I LOVE nougat, Maureen, and I know I’m going to especially love your version with rose water. Can’t wait to make it. Thanks for sharing–and happy, happy holidays to you!

  4. A. SALLOOM says:

    I just bought two bags of salted pistachios from Costco. Recipe calls for shelled ones. Can I use the shelled salted pistachios here?

  5. These look like they came out perfectly! I like the extra honey added, too.

  6. Roger Toomey says:

    My mother had the same cookbook. She made this as long as she was able and I’ve never tasted anyone else’s that is as good. I remember Mom talking her way through the recipe for my sister and me. Explaining the technique of each step to make it perfectly.

    Thanks for the memories. Make sure this one is in the cookbook.

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Oh how great Roger, thank you for sharing! I wish this was in the cookbook but alas, it is not! But it is here for one and all…

  7. mimi says:

    I love nougat and caramel I want to make them both
    in fact I want to make all your recipes

  8. Oh my word! I love this recipe for oh-so-many reasons! 1) It’s low fat, 2) Nougat is fluffy, chewy, and delicious (I have a huge sweet teeth. I can’t wait to try this!), and 3) This treat is great for the holidays. Thanks for sharing this delightful recipe.

  9. Louise Aboud Persinger says:

    I made these and they were very good! But my egg whites tripled in half the time; I was afraid to keep beating them because I didn’t want them to break down. Is it important to beat it for the full twelve minutes, or is the volume more important than the time? Also, if I were to make these with no fruit, would I use four cups of pistachios alone do you think? Thank you so much. The recipe really is wonderful!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Wonderful, Louise. I’m sure it was fine to stop beating once the meringue tripled but also with all of the sugar they won’t break down if beaten longer. Incrasing the nuts would be fine too, delicious!

  10. Donna Myers says:

    Maureen, do you have a recipe for Lokum?

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Hi Donna–I have worked on a recipe for lokum (Turkish delight) but it’s not ready as of yet! The candy is finicky to make at home, but I will get there and when I do it will land right here, promise!! Thanks for asking!

  11. michele rupp says:

    i love nougat & divinity my mother made divinity every year for thanksgiving & christmas i also grew up in michigan, i live in fla now and i dont try to make it because of the humidity i have been useing bettys cook book as long as i have been cooking and that would be 52 yrs. my mother used it my home ec teacher used it and when i married my sister in law gave one tome for shower gift you cant go wrong with bettys receipes i was going to get a new cook book by betty but the new ones are missing alot of receips. so i just patch up the old one.maureen is nougat like the italian candy torta im not sure if that is the right spelling bu it is good but very expensive nice talking to you your recipes are wonderful have blessed day michele

  12. Trish says:

    Wow! This is an amazing recipe. I followed it to the letter and it is SO good. Served it for dessert after a Middle Eastern dinner. It was a great success. I’ve been enjoying the rest with a cup of tea throughout the day. Thank you so much for sharing. I highly recommend this recipe.

  13. Barb Messere says:

    I made nougat once (not your recipe) and the slices did not keep their shape. They were gooey and oozed out of shape. I would love to know if I did something wrong so I don’t repeat it when I make your recipe. I’ve had different nougats in Italy, some soft, some crunchy. I prefer the softer ones. I buy the nougats in the cute little boxes (orange, vanilla, lemon flavors), but there is just not enough nougat in the whole package for us. I can’t wait to make your nougat. By the way, I was given my Betty Crocker cookbook for my bridal shower 47 years ago!

    • Maureen Abood says:

      Barb, what a great comment, thank you! I’ve also made nougat that didn’t hold its shape, and I found as I developed this recipe that the quantity and temperature of the nuts seemed to make a big difference in the end result. Here’s to our Betty Crocker cookbooks! Let me know how the nougat comes out for you!

  14. Sabrina says:

    Yum, this nougat looks great!

  15. Belinda says:

    I was looking up recipies for divinity with rose water & found yours. I’m a fan of egg white confections too. This recipe looks like a winner. Coincidentally, I ran across your promising book on Amazon. This is a great site & I look forward to learning more from both. I too started with the Betty Crocker cookbook which I will revisit too. Thank you.

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