Happy Thanksgiving to all! This is just a short update since I'm in Kansas about to celebrate the holiday with the family of the boyfriend. I just wanted to share a little concoction I whipped up before I left, while I was getting into the holiday mood.
Cranberries are inextricably linked to the holiday table, and when these jewel-bright lovelies made their appearance at the grocery I really wanted to make something with them.
I remembered seeing this beautiful creation in Johnny's Iuzzini's Dessert FourPlay and knew this was the time to try it out. This striking dessert is a frozen cranberry nougat topped with fresh cranberries poached with star anise. Formed in savarin molds, the nougats look like little holiday wreathes, or bowls of Christmas joy.
Nougat was one of the candies I researched for my candy book, and it was a intriguingly difficult candy to figure out, mostly because there are many different kinds of sweets called nougat around the world. Trying to categorize them categorize them into one or two basic recipes was a challenge. In the US, many people think of nougat as the creamy, sticky, gooey center found in many chocolates or candy bars. In Europe, nougat is most commonly known as a confection made from whipped egg whites and sugar syrup, that contains nuts and sometimes dried fruits, and is pressed into a dense, chewy slab. One of the most well known nougats in Europe is the French nougat de Montelimar, which is made with lavender honey and studded with almonds and pistachios. Nougat is also very popular in Italy and Spain, where it is known as torrone or turron.
Iuzzini's nougat is definitely based on the European style of nougat; it's made of honey mixed with whipped egg whites, and sprinkled with pistachios, almonds, and dried cranberries. The nougat mixture is then folded into some whipped cream, spread into savarin molds, and frozen. The resulting confection is light and ethereal in the mouth but retains the distinct nougat-like flavor. The wonderfully fragrant poached cranberries ground the nougat with their spicy richness, and add a gorgeous visual element.
What I really like about Iuzzini's recipes is how he develops the flavors in each element to create a complex tapestry of tastes. For examples, the nuts are candied first before being chopped up and added to the nougat, to add extra sweetness and crunch. Similarly, the cranberries in the nougat are soaked in Chambord first – nothing like a little liquor to signal the start of holiday celebrations, hm?
It was also fun to work with the silicone savarin molds – the frozen nougats virtually popped out perfectly formed, and I love the shape. I got mine at Sur la Table, and you could also find them online as well.
Unfortunately I didn't have time to type up the recipe before I left- let me know if you're interested in seeing it and I can post it when I return.
Meanwhile, do enjoy a happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones. I have a lot to be thankful for this year – some wonderful big changes, but I also try to be grateful for all the small everyday sweetnesses, like a call out of the blue from a friend, or having a recipe come out perfectly. Those are the little things that make me realize how lucky I am, and how thankful I am for all I have.
Have a wonderful holiday weekend!
Frozen Cranberry Nougats
makes (12) 2 3/4 round nougats (you can find 6-cavity silicone savarin molds in kitchen supply stores like Sur la Table. If you can't find them, Iuzzini suggests spreading the mixture into a baking pan lined with a silicone baking mat and cutting the frozen nougat into squares.)
1 1/2 cups pure cranberry juice
1/4 cup star anise
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
1/2 cup shelled unsalted pistachios
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 tablespoons Chambord
3/4 teaspoon powdered gelatin
2 large egg whites
pinch of cream of tartar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups heavy cream
For the cranberries: Place juice and star anise in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat.
Add the cranberries and reduce heat to low. Poach until cranberries are tender but don't let them burst.
Chill cranberries in the poaching liquid before serving.
For the nougats: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Spread out pistachios and almonds on a baking sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes until they are hot but not browned or toasted.
Place sugar in a saucepan and mix with just enough water so it has the texture of wet sand. Cook over medium heat to 285 degrees F.
Add in nuts and stir until the sugar turns white and coats the nuts (you are basically candying the nuts).
Pour out nuts onto a baking sheet lined with a silpat and let cool completely.
Reserve about 2 tablespoons of the nuts for garnish. Place the rest in a food processor and process to ground coarsely. Do not turn them into powder – you just want them in smaller chunks that will be mixed into the nougat.
Place cranberries and Chambord in a glass bowl and microwave for 30 seconds. Let cool and drain cranberries, reserving the Chambord. Chop the cranberries.
Sprinkle the powdered gelatin over the Chambord. It will absorb the gelatin and then turn solid.
Place egg whites and cream of tartar in bowl of stand mixer and whisk at medium speed until soft peaks form.
Meanwhile, place honey in a small saucepan and cook to 250 degrees over medium-high heat.
Microwave the gelatin and Chambord for about 30 seconds until it has turned back into liquid.
With the mixer still running, pour the honey in a steady stream into the whites. Add the gelatin. Turn speed to high and beat until bowl and mixture have cooled.
In a clean bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks.
Fold the egg white mixture into the cream. Fold in the nuts and cranberries.
Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag and pipe into twelve Flexipan savarin molds. Level off the tops, cover with parchment paper or plastic wrap, and place in freezer overnight.
When ready to serve, unmold nougats onto dessert plates and top with poached cranberries.