Daring Bakers: Hazelnut Banana Nougat

The March 2014 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

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My house smells so amazing right now!

You’re just going to have to take my word on that, though, since they have yet to invent smell-er-net or whatever. But seriously, it’s like toasted marshmallows (the good kind) without the bonfire smoke thanks to the various sugary components of this month’s confectionery challenge.

It’s been my experience, making candy in the south, that our biggest challenge is humidity and there’s something like a handful of clear, bright days where everything will work if you hold your mouth right. The rest of the year? Well, I remember making these sugar-dipped pear slices back at the Plantation as a garnish for Pear Clafoutis during the first few weeks there. It was, of course, summer in south Georgia and humid as all get out, and I had to store the slices in a plastic container with some powdered dehumidifying agent to try and keep them from going limp before the next dinner service.

I’ve made divinity at Christmas that I had to store in the freezer because it was the only way it would stay semi-solid. Pralines have crystallized in front of our very eyes. And more of the same. So it was with a tiny bit of trepidation that I put together the ingredients for the chocolate nougat, hoping I wouldn’t end up with a weepy, goopy mess.

I needn’t have worried. At least about it not setting.

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Thanks to a random cold snap last night, we had pretty much perfect candy-making weather. And as I watched the sweet meringue whip around my stand mixer, letting it mix the 3-5 minutes to cool off a bit before adding the chocolate and other mix-ins, something strange happened. One moment it was silky smooth and belching steam like a locomotive, the next it developed that whipped look of the inside of a 3 Musketeers bar, and then–in the blink of an eye–turned to something much more choppy. Adding the chocolate didn’t smooth it out (maybe it would have, had I melted it, but that’s hindsight talking). Since the nuts and dried fruit originally called for in the recipe were either High-FODMAP or not Todd’s favorite, I used toasted hazelnuts and banana chips–sort of like Chunky Monkey meets 3 Musketeers.

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Unfortunately, it stayed pretty crumbly. I managed to get a few decent-sized pieces for a picture but instead of neat little bricks they’re more like field stones, so the majority got put into an airtight jar. Despite its rugged appearance, it melts nice and smooth on the tongue, so it’s not crystallized or anything like that. I tried adding a little water to a bit of it, but that just melted it, so we’ll leave it crumbly.

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Besides, this way it makes an amazing ice cream topping!

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