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.
Liddabit Sweets’ Trillian Bar is a variation on their famous Snackers Bars (recipe here and here). It has a base of chewy caramel and soft white chocolate vanilla nougat enrobed in chocolate. I added salted roasted pistachios for some crunch. When was the last time you find white chocolate nougat anywhere? That was enough reason for me to choose this recipe. It was certainly a labour of love but by far not the most complicated recipe I attempted before.
Making the individual components was no big deal. My mixer complained a little as the nougat turned from airy to increasingly stiff. Things hummed along nicely until I tried to cut my candy slab to portions. Pliable and sticky, I knew my candy bars would taste fantastic. But even a greased knife was of little help. The nougat cling to my knife, the parchment paper, and my hands. After a few frustrating attempts, I finally discovered that I could gently scrape it off the knife with the blunt blade of an offset spatula. Still, it took me forever to cut.
The last time I tried tempering chocolate was at the height of summer. I did it four times and still the chocolate refused to temper. I figured the house was simply too warm and I gave up with a slightly bruised confidence at 3 in the morning. Yesterday my house was freezing cold. I reluctantly took off my hoodie to work in the kitchen because it was bulky. While I shivered and cursed, my chocolate loved it. I tempered a big batch of chocolate easily on first try. Confidence restored!
As for the Trillian Bars? Oh boy, were they good. Super gooey filling with the complexity of caramel and depth added by white chocolate. All the hard work was justified in one simple bite. And now I am itching to make more. If tempering chocolate makes you nervous too, you can simply cut the caramel nougat into bite size pieces and wrap in non-stick twisting paper. The double layer candies are totally gorgeous.