Orange is our ingredient of the season. You can find our full archive of zesty orange posts here, with everything from cocktails and cakes to candies and cleansers.
If you’re looking for a fun alternative to chocolates for Valentine’s Day, pistachio and orange torrone may be it! But I have to admit, it took me over two months to build up the courage to try making this recipe. Calder came across it in an issue of Bon Appetit while researching recipes for Thanksgiving. The ingredients were purchased, and I promised to make it for the holiday (Thanksgiving, not Valentine’s Day). Then I didn’t, and I didn’t make it for Christmas or New Year’s, but here we are and I’m finally making the sweet for my sweet!
Torrone is a nougat-type treat made from honey, sugar, egg whites, and nuts, commonly almonds. The nougat comes in two varieties, either hard and brittle or soft and chewy. This recipe is for the soft and chewy variety. Torrone is a traditional Spanish treat served at Christmas, and is popular in many countries that were previously under Spanish rule, including Italy, Latin America, and the Philippines. The combination of citrus flavor and pistachios in this recipe is are characteristics of an Italian torrone.
Orange blossom or flower water provides the citrus flavor in this torrone. It’s a perfumed by-product that’s created when bitter-orange blossoms are distilled for their essential oils. If you’re familiar with rose water, it’s similar to that, just the orange variety. Orange blossom water has many culinary uses from cakes and pastries to candies and cocktails. If you’ve never smelled it or cooked with it before, I encourage you to get some. The aroma is so deliciously intense with its mixture of orange and floral scents.
Even though I found marshmallows surprisingly easy to make, there was something about making nougat that seemed challenging, maybe it was the higher temp required while boiling the sugar, or the whipped egg whites. I can’t really put my finger on it, but having come out on the other end, I’ve determined that the recipe isn’t harder but the confection is definitely stickier than a batch of marshmallows.
Just as with the marshmallows, having a candy thermometer is essential for this recipe. You’ll have to cook the honey, sugar, and some water into a syrup that will go through many different stages of bubbling until it reaches 310F. Towards the end of the syrup cooking, you’ll beat egg whites until they form soft peaks. If you need a refresher on beating egg whites, here’s a great source.
Once you add the syrup to the egg whites and allow it to beat for 20 minutes, you’re going to have an amazingly sticky concoction. So sticky that you may wonder how you’ll ever be able to manipulate it or get your mixer clean again, but trust me, both are amazingly easy to do if you know a couple of tricks.
When it comes to manipulating the finished nougat, corn starch is your friend. As the recipe states, you’ll want to sprinkle some on your work surface; be sure to dip your hands in it too before kneading. The way the corn starch lightly coats the outside of the nougat and completely eliminates any stickiness is pure magic. When it’s time to cut the torrone, sprinkle some cornstarch onto the knife and along the freshly cut sides of the nougat. If you do that, you should have absolutely no problems with the candy sticking to anything, especially your hands.
As for cleaning the dirty, sticky dishes and utensils, all you need is patience. Just soak anything with nougat on it in hot water. The water will dissolve the sugary confection, and you will not have to do a lick of scrubbing. Trust me.
- 1 1/2 cups mild-flavored honey
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 1/2 tsp orange-flower water
- 3/4 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups salted roasted and shelled pistachios
- 1+ Tbsp cornstarch
- Lightly grease an 8x8 inch baking pan, then line the bottom and sides with parchment paper.
- Heat the honey, sugar and water in a heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Then bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. At the same time, wash down any sugar that's on the sides of the pot with a pastry brush dipped in cold water. Place a candy thermometer in the pot and continue boiling, giving it a gentle stir once in a while.
- When the candy thermometer reaches 300F, start beating the egg whites and salt with an electric mixer until the whites form soft peaks.
- When the thermometer reaches 310F, remove the syrup from the heat and let it stand for moment until the bubbles dissipate.
- With the mixer on a low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the whites in a stream down the side of the bowl. Then increase the speed to high and beat until the mixture has cool to warm. This should take about 20 minutes and during that time you'll see the mixture rise and then fall. Add the orange flower water and extract and continue beating for 1 minute. Stir in the pistachios.
- Sprinkle your work surface with the 1 Tbsp of corn starch. Spoon the mixture onto the surface (this is the really sticky part!), dip your hands in the corn starch and gently knead a few times (the cornstarch does an amazing job of not allowing any of the torrone to stick to your hands).
- Pat the torrone into the prepared baking dish and let it stand at room temperature for at least 8 hours.
- Cut into bit size pieces with a sharp knife. You may want to roll the pieces in a touch of corn starch to minimize stickiness.
There’s no problem keeping your torrone in the pan and cutting off little slices when you want some. That’s what we did for a few days. I also wanted to package some up and send it off as a surprise treat. To do that, I realized that it might be easiest to cut it into bite size pieces and wrap each in parchment paper, as I have seen done with homemade caramels. And really, it sounds more tedious than it is! The trick is to make sure your parchment squares are nice and wide – a lot of area is used up in the actual twist, and you’ll still want to have some left to give you those nice ends that aren’t super squished (know what I mean?).
If you want to get really fancy, you could add a piece of washi tape in fun colors and patterns. I did this for a few that went to work with Calder, but the rest I kept plain, and they still look super cute.