Friday, December 14, 2007

A sticky affair!

Pistachio and Almond Torrone


Torrone - A short, sticky story.

A naive and bright-eyed girl flipped through the pages of her shiny new Gourmet Magazine with glee, admiring the cookies and candies like gems in a jewelry shop. When the page flipped open to reveal Pistachio Torrone, she paused. "This would make the perfect gift for my Italian brother-in-law," she thought. It just so happened that she and her husband were off to visit her in-laws in Canada the next day. Did the the thought of having less than 24 hours to make the candy (for the first time ever), go to work and pack her bags deter her? Not a chance. After all, this girl had a habit of biting off more than she could chew. After reading through the ingredient list she let out a squeal of delight - she had them all on hand! Well all except the edible paper, but she was determined and figured good old wax paper would do.

As her lunch break arrived, she set out to make the candy. The honey and sugar boiled and bubbled, her eyes transfixed on the thermometer. She eyed the picture of torrone in the magazine, a glorious ivory bar studded with emerald green pistachios. Meanwhile, the colour of the syrup gradually turned from straw, to amber, to deep caramel! At last, after what seemed like hours, the temperature reached the hard-crack stage and it was time to whip the egg whites. Once they reached soft peaks, she poured in the liquid gold in a slow and steady stream. The mixer whipped and whirred, the egg mixture rose and fell. The longer the mixture was whipped, the lighter is became, until it finally reached the glossy ivory colour she has so admired. "So far, so good," she thought to herself. She added the almond extract, orange flour water, roasted almonds and pistachios. She sprinkled her work surface and hands with a dash of cornstarch and attempted to turn out the torrone. It did not want to leave the comfort of the bowl. She reached in and with super strength she managed to pry the torrone loose. She followed the directions and kneaded the torrone, only to find her hands covered in a sticky, cement-like mass. She persevered and scooped up the the torrone and spread it into the wax paper lined baking dish. It was at this point, with hands, sink and counter top covered in a sticky mess, that she began to curse her habit of biting off more than she could chew. While she washed the mess away, she lectured herself on the health benefits of taking smaller bites and chewing slowly.

Hours passed, (8 to be exact) and it was finally time to unmold and cut the masterpiece. It was midnight, she would wake again in 4 1/2 hours to catch her flight. "This better be worth it", she thought as she closed her eyes and took a bite. A wave of almond and honey crashed into her taste buds followed by a hearty crunch of roasted almonds and pistachios, ending with a sweet, floral note like a kiss goodbye. It may not have been the best timing to make it, but without a doubt - it was worth it.

The End.
Pistachio and Almond Torrone - adapted from Gourmet Magazine, December 2007
  • 1 1/2 cups clover honey
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp orange-flower water
  • 3/4 tsp pure almond extract
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted shelled pistachios
  • 1 cup whole roasted almonds
  • 1 tbs cornstarch plus additional for kneading
  • edible wafer paper if you can get it
  • candy thermometer

Oil an 8-inch square baking pan and line it with the edible wafer paper if you have it, or as I did, with wax paper. Trim to fit and set aside.

Heat the honey, sugar and water in a 5-quart heavy pot over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat medium and bring the syrup to a boil without stirring, washing down the sugar crystals on the side of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Put the thermometer into the syrup and continue to boil, stirring occasionally until it registers 310F to 315F (upper end of hard-crack stage). When the thermometer reaches 300F, start to whip the egg whites with the salt in a mixer until they hold soft peaks. Remove syrup from heat and allow to stand until bubbles dissipate.

With the mixer at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has cooled to warm (mixture will rise, then fall), about 20 minutes. Add flower water and almond extract and beat one minute more. Then fold in the nuts. Sprinkle a work surface with cornstarch (1 tbs) and then spoon the torrone mixture onto cornstarch and knead gently a few times with hands dipped in cornstarch. Pat the torrone mixture into the baking pan and top with a square of wafer paper or wax paper, trimming to fit. Let stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours.

Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and then invert the torrone onto a cutting board. Cut torrone into 1-inch wide strips, or however you like. Wrap in parchment paper. Torrone will keep in an airtight container at cool room temperature for 2 weeks.

Note: The torrone is very very sticky! I would highly recommend the edible wafer paper but as in my case, the wax paper worked out. I found that refrigerating the torrone made it easier to cut and peel the paper off before serving.


4 comments:

TD said...

You should write a cook book. I know my sister would buy it for sure :D

linda said...

Lol! Love the story (could have been me). Your torrone looks delicious! Have it on my to-do list too...

Patricia Scarpin said...

Wow!
I have been meaning to make torrone for ages but never got the courage to - yours are so beautiful, such an inspiration!

Deborah said...

They sure to sound good!! This is what usually happens when I try to make anything!