Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Iced Nougat Cubes

My dad, like me, can’t live without sweets. I can’t imagine a week a day without chocolate, cakes or cookies, the sheer thought of it chills me to the bone. In addition to our insatiable sweet tooth, we like foods with texture, say dark chocolate with raisins and almonds or crunchy peanut butter. Life is just more interesting with some crunch.

My dad frequently eats something before bedtime while lounging on the couch (a major culprit to his rotund belly), a typical snack would be milky scoops of ice cream sprinkled with toasted hazelnuts or broken bits of chocolate chip cookies. As he’s digging into the dessert bowl, he looks like a 5 year old ripping through Christmas gift wrap on Boxing Day, in other words, hilarious and charming. I prefer something less rich, say a square of Lindt dark chocolate in either the sea salt or intense mint flavour. I slowly nibble off each corner and let it melt on my tongue, prolonging the pleasure and I swear, I sleep much more soundly with a little extra sugar running through my veins.

I’ve owned French Food at Home for a number of years and still, I’m always intrigued by Laura Calder’s delicious ideas whenever I flip through her book for inspiration. Armed with a mandatory post-it dispenser, I frantically bookmark all the recipes that jump to my attention, which is to say, quite a few. 

One particular recipe that stood out for me were these Ice Nougat Cubes. Doesn't it sound like it belongs on the Queen's dinner menu every night? Its name practically beckons you to dash to the grocery store and buy all the ingredients so you can have it ready to eat the following day (you know, in case the Queen stops by for a visit). These nougats are more of a frozen dessert than candy, they are fluffier than ice cream and the flurry of dried fruits, almond brittle and nuts make it fun to eat as the various chewy and nutty textures jostle for attention in your mouth. The best part is its not cloying sweet, so you won’t feel guilty for lying on your bed and mistakenly whiz through three or four of these jewelled cubes. 

It’s a shame it took me more than four years to make these nougats, but like that old saying, good things come to those who wait.  

Iced Nougat Cubes 
Adapted from French Food at Home by Laura Calder 

This recipe is a thing of beauty, you can use whatever dried fruits or mixture of nuts that you have on hand. I also used a round springform pan since I don't have a square pan, but who said improvisation can't be tasty? My favourite part of these cubes are the shards of almond brittle. They're nutty and sweet and just perfect in nougat, my only complaint is I wish there was more in the nougat. 

½ cup chopped mixed dried fruit (such as raisins, apricots, dried cranberries)
½ cup candied fruit (such as orange peel, pineapple, cherries)
2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, rum or other alcohol
¼ cup whole almonds
¼ cup silvered almonds
6 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup chopped nuts (such as walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios)
½ cup mascarpone cheese
1 cup heavy cream
3 egg whites 

  1. Line a square cake pan with plastic wrap. Combine the dried and candied fruits in a bowl and sprinkle over the Grand Marnier. Leave to macerate while you toast the whole almonds in a dry frying pan, stirring, until slightly browned, set aside. 
  2. To make the almond brittle, toast the sliced almonds, stirring, until lightly golden, above 5 minutes. Sprinkle over 2 tablespoons of sugar, and continue stirring until melted and caramelized, about 2 minutes. Do not let the sugar or nuts burn. Spread on a baking sheet and leave a few minutes to harden, then chop into raisin-sized pieces. 
  3. Mix all the nuts in with the fruit. Add the mascarpone and mix well your fingers. Whip the heavy cream and set aside
  4. Set a large metal bowl over a pan of simmering water on low heat. Put in the egg whites and the remaining 4 tablespoons sugar and whisk until thick (like whipped cream) and glossy, about 5 minutes. Remove the bowl from heat. Fold the whipped cream into the fruit mixture, then fold in the egg whites. pour into the lined pan, cover with plastic wrap, and freeze for 12 hours. 
  5. To serve, flip the iced nougat onto a cutting surface and slice into neat ice cubed-sized pieces. Serve each person about 3 pieces

Recipe here!

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