Tempering chocolate used to make me quake in my shoes from intimidation. Not anymore. Like most skills, with enough practice, I finally master it well enough to do so reliably. At the beginning of the year, I set out to learn new techniques and tackle unfamiliar recipes. The parade of successes and failures came out of kitchen non-stop: baba au rhum, steamed barbecue pork buns, popovers, marshmallows, countless candies, many kinako treats, Swedish baked goods, kouign amann, croissant, French crullers, beef jerky, butter tarts, Princess cake, slab pies, baked Alaska, and of course, croquembouche. The biggest gain is my love affair with confectionary. Playing with sugar and chocolate become a large part of my repertoire. I marvel at the variations a few simple basic ingredients can turn out depending on how I manipulate them. It is as close to alchemy as it gets.
It took me a long time to gather up courage to make nougat. It is one of my favourite treats so you would think I want to make it at home as often as I can. With an addictively soft and sticky texture, it is a joy to eat but a pain to handle. I feared facing a slab of stubborn sticky sugary mess on my chopping board. But my confectionary education would not be complete without nougat. So I made it anyway last weekend.