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The Tivoli Road Baker is more than a cookbook. In it, pastry chef Michael James covers both basic and advanced techniques of baking, including breads, pastries, confections and much more. But he also discusses the importance of sourcing quality produce, of cooking seasonally, and of following your heart.
The recipe and image are extracted from The Tivoli Road Baker published by Hardie Grant Books. Photography by Bonnie Savage.
Timing is very important with this recipe. You need to have the sugar at the correct temperature just as the egg whites come to a meringue, as well as having the chocolate already melted, and the pistachios and cherries warm. It’s important to have the nuts and cherries warm so they don’t solidify the nougat before you have time to mix them through properly at the end. Read through the method thoroughly before you start making the nougat – it will make the process smoother. Make the nougat the day before you need it, to allow it to set overnight.
Lightly grease the sides and base of the tin, then lay the rice paper over the base, shiny side down, so that the sheets are slightly overlapping (cut to fit if needed). Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
In a large stockpot, mix together the sugar, glucose syrup, honey and water. Place over a high heat and bring it up to 140°C (280°F) on a sugar thermometer. This will take about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a simmer, then place a metal mixing bowl over it, ensuring that the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Put the white chocolate into the bowl and melt, stirring occasionally to remove any lumps. Be careful not to overheat the white chocolate. Turn off the heat and leave until ready to use. If it starts to set, gently reheat it using the same method.
Spread the pistachios out on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 4 minutes, until lightly toasted. Add the cherries to the tray and return it to the oven, then turn the oven off and leave the door slightly ajar. This will help keep the pistachios and cherries warm until you’re ready to use them.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Once the sugar syrup reaches 140°C (280°F), start whisking the egg whites on a medium–high speed until a soft, loose meringue starts to form.
By this time your syrup should be at 145°C (290°F). Take it off the heat and, with the whisk still running, pour the syrup slowly into the egg whites in a thin, steady stream, being very careful not to get splattered by the molten sugar. The mixture will increase in volume and become very thick. Turn the mixer down to a low speed and leave it to mix and cool for a few more minutes.
Remove the whisk attachment and add the paddle attachment to the mixer. Mixing on a slow speed, slowly add the melted white chocolate in a thin stream, until totally incorporated. Turn the mixer off, add the nuts and cherries, then turn it back onto a low speed. Mix just until the nuts and cherries are evenly distributed – be careful not to mix for any longer, or the cherries will bruise.
Wearing gloves (this bit gets messy), use a scraper to scoop the nougat out of the bowl into your prepared tray. With wet hands, press the nougat into all the corners of the tin and flatten out the top. Place another layer of rice paper over the top, with the shiny side up, pressing gently to flatten it over the top for a nice even finish. Leave the nougat in a cool dry place to set overnight.
Run a knife around the edge of the tin to loosen the nougat, then invert it over a chopping board, gently pressing the base to release the nougat (it might need a bit of a wiggle). Use a large cook’s knife to trim the edges and cut into your desired portions. The nougat will keep for several months at room temperature in an airtight container. Don’t store it in the fridge, or anywhere too warm.
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