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TIP OF THE DAY: Truffles Vs. Truffles Vs. Truffles

Original Chocolate Truffles

Classic Chocolate Truffles

Flavored Chocolate Truffles

Royce Chocolate Truffles

Perigord Black Truffle

[1] The original truffles (photo by Roz Marina | 123rf). [2] The selection at Pierre Hermé, a Paris destination. [3] Contemporary flavors at Good Eggs. [4] Royce Chocolate, a commercial producer in Japan, prefers rectangle truffles (they’re easier to make and pack). [5] The Périgord black truffle, more than $1,000 per pound, inspired the naming of chocolate truffles (photo courtesy D’Artagnan).

 

May 2 is National Truffle Day. Truffles: so delicious, somewhat confusing.

The word truffle has several meanings in the world of confection. Like the word praline, you have to clarify what is being discussed.

That’s because in different regions, words mean different things; and American English incorporates used by immigrants from the world over.

Even in northern Europe, one person’s truffle is another’s praline (which, in turn, has nothing to do with brown sugar-pecan pralines of the American South).

We’re not going near the truffle fungus, for which the chocolate was named. But if you want to take a tour, here’s an extensive article on the world’s costliest vegetable.

Truffles are members of the Tuberaceae family of fungi, like their cousins, the mushrooms (truffles are not mushrooms, but a different genus—Tuber for truffles, Agaricus for mushrooms).

Truffles, the tubers, inspired truffles, the chocolates.

THE HISTORY OF CHOCOLATE TRUFFLES

Truffles are balls of ganache; so first, someone had to invent ganache (gah-NOSH).

According to legend, this happened in the kitchen of French culinary giant Auguste Escoffier, during the 1920s.

One day, as his stagiaire (apprentice) attempted to make pastry cream, he accidentally poured hot cream into a bowl of chocolate chunks rather than the bowl of sugared egg for which it was destined. He yelled “Ganache!” at the boy—the French word for idiot.

As the chocolate and cream mixture hardened, Escoffier found that he could work the chocolate paste with his hands to form a bumpy, lopsided ball. He must have had a sense of humor, since he called the creamy paste ganache.

After rolling the new creation in cocoa powder (to contain the creamy ganache—although in doing so, one ended up with cocoa powder fingers instead of ganache fingers), he was struck by their resemblance to the luxurious truffles from the French Périgord region (photo #4). It tasted great.

As the concept developed, different truffle textures and flavors were created by variously rolling balls of ganache in white confectioner»s sugar or finely chopped nuts. The ganache was flavored with Champagne, Cognac, raspberry and other liqueurs. For starters.

In the classic repertoire, anything other type of bonbon, including chocolate-enrobed fruit cremes and other creme centers, whipped cream-filled chocolates, and any filled chocolate that isn’t filled with ganache—is not a truffle. However…

Today, the term truffle is often used to in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing. If you see a box labeled “chocolate truffles,” are you going to get round balls of ganache, or ganache-filled chocolates? Or are you going to get a box of assorted cremes and other mixed chocolates?

As Forrest Gump observed, you never know what you’re going to get. There is no standard of identity to stop any confectioner from selling whatever he or she wants as “truffles.”

Not to mention, these days people tend to bestow names without knowing (or caring) about history and accuracy. Is this a serious problem?

No, but it does a disservice to whomever sees different terms and tries to figure them out. We’re one country, we should have one standard. E trufflis unum.

 
SO WHAT IS A CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE?

What Is A Truffle

  • Balls of ganache, coated classic-style, or enrobed in chocolate.
  • Ganache in other shapes (rectangles, squares—see photo #3), with a powdered or hard chocolate coating.
  • Modern truffles can be coated in the classic powders (cocoa, nuts, sugar) or modern spice trends (curry, peppercorns, sea salt, paprika etc.)
  • They can be enrobed in hard chocolate, known as couverture chocolate; or used to fill chocolate shells (see MODERN TRUFFLES), below.
     
    The commonality, regardless of shapes, flavor or coating, is ganache.
  •  
    What Is Not A Truffle

    Anything else, including fruit cremes and other creme centers, whipped cream-filled chocolates, and any filled chocolate that isn’t filled with ganache.

    Now, this pronouncement here doesn’t stop any confectioner from selling whatever he or she wants to call “truffles.”
     
    MODERN TRUFFLES

    In 1912, the Belgian chocolatier Jean Neuhaus invented the first hard chocolate shell, enabling the production of hard chocolates with soft centers.

    While he called them pralines (see the discussion of this term), and it became the term used in Belgium, French and other chocolatiers referred to them as truffles because the early chocolate shells were filled with ganache.

     

    As words evolve, the term truffle is often used to in America to describe any filled chocolate, and it becomes very confusing: chocolate cremes or assorted chocolates, e.g., would be more accurate. If the term is applied to a filled, hard-shell chocolate, the use should be limited to round shells filled with ganache.

    But the good news in truffledom is the explosion of flavors, based on America’s greater foray into international cuisines.

    Over the last few decades, the classic European flavors paired with chocolate—berry, citrus, coconut, coffee, nut—has been augmented with trending flavors such as pumpkin and salted caramel.

    White chocolate ganache was created for variety, and as a carrier for flavors that didn’t mix as well with milk and dark chocolate ganache.

    Then, there are the global flavors that may sound unusual, but are actually delicious fusion with chocolate.

    Today’s chocolatiers can roll their balls of ganache—or infuse the ganache itself—with spices such as curry, flavored salts, paprika peppercorns…or teas such as Earl Grey, jasmine and matcha…or anything they like. The Smokey Blue Cheese Truffles from Lille Belle are outstanding!

     

    LINDOR FROM LINDT: AMERICA’S FAVORITE TRUFFLES

    Rodolphe Lindt of Switzerland, one of the most famous chocolate-makers of his day (1855-1909), created the technology to turn hard chocolate into creamy chocolate (called conching).

    Before then, chocolate was roughly-hewn, as it were: not the creamy, smooth, melt-in-your-mouth chocolate we know today.

    Lindt’s conching technique enabled the manufacture of a superior chocolate, with finer aroma and texture. His “melting chocolate,” as it was known, soon achieved fame, and contributed significantly to the worldwide reputation of Swiss chocolate.

    His company merged to become Lindt & Sprungli.

    The Lindor line of truffles was introduced in 1949. A hard chocolate shell enrobes a smooth, melty filling: 20 flavors of fillings, plus seasonal varieties. The shells are in your choice of dark, milk or white chocolate.

    Once you bite into the shell, the creamy filling starts to melt onto your tongue. If this sounds good to you, head to your nearest retailer, or to…
     
    Lindt Chocolate Shops

    One of the most memorable chocolate “field trips” you can take is to a Lindt Chocolate Shop.

    It’s like Chocolate Disneyland—so many different types of chocolate, so many different flavors, so much you haven’t seen elsewhere.

    You don’t know where to head first!

    Lindt operates more than 50 U.S. retail stores, including Lindt Chocolate Shops, Lindt Outlets, Lindt Chocolate Drinks Bars and Lindt Factory Outlets.

    You get to try before you buy; and buy you must! Everyone who eats chocolate will want a box or bag.

    Here’s a store locator.
     
    You can buy single flavors or assortments; on line as well, and at retailers nationwide.
     
     
    HAPPY NATIONAL CHOCOLATE TRUFFLE DAY!

     

    Lindor Assorted Truffles

    Lindor Chocolate Truffles

    Lindor Chocolate Truffles

    [6] A box of assorted Lindor Truffles. [7] Open the wrapper and gaze fondly. [8] Here’s what it looks like cut in half (all photos courtesy Lindt).

     

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Celebrate Cinco De Mayo With Tres Leches Cake

    Plain Tres Leches Cake

    Tres Leches Cake With Fruit

    Chocolate Tres Leches Cake

    Raspberry Tres Leches Cake

    [1] Basic tres leches cake with added rum. Here’s the recipe from Bake Or Break. [2] Add some fruit garnish. Here’s the recipe from Renee’s Kitchen Adventures. [3] Go chocolate, with this recipe from The Domestic Rebel. [4] Go fancy for a special occasion. Here’s the recipe from Vika’s Home Goods.

     

    First: There is a recipe for a specialty Tres Leches cake below, Caramel Coconut Tres Leches Cake.

    Tres Leches cake is a vanilla sponge cake that is baked, perforated and soaked in three different milk products: evaporated milk, sweetened condensed milk and whole milk. The cake absorbs the milks, making it moister and richer.

    It is then frosted with whipped cream or meringue, and often garnished with caramel, chocolate, coconut, liqueurs, nuts and tropical fruits. It’s not your grandmother’s sponge cake.
     
    Tres Leches has been a favorite cake for celebrations throughout Central America since at least World War II era, and become popular in the U.S. at the end of the 20th century (Jenna Bush Hager served it for her wedding cake).
     
    It is kin to other sponge cakes and angel food cakes, which are light and airy because they use beaten eggs to rise. Chiffon cake and génoise are two you may be familiar with. Here are:

  • The different types of sponge cakes.
  • The different categories of cake.
  •  
    THE HISTORY OF TRES LECHES CAKE

    Popular in Central America since the 19th century, pastel de tres leches (pastry with three milks)

    While the origin lacks clean documentation, food historians believe that tres leches cake most likely originated in Nicaragua in the early 1900s. The recipe was printed on the label of sweetened condensed milk cans to spur sales of the product.

    A number of recipe sources place the origin of the tres leches cake in Nicaragua, born from a recipe on the label of Nestle’s sweetened condensed milk. (More than a few recipes, from cheesecake to Chex Party Mix and Rice Krispies Marshmallow Treats, began in the development kitchens of manufacturers to promote more uses for their products.)

    Some sources say the recipe dates to 1875—but that’s the year Nestlé began distributing its condensed and evaporated milks, and seems to soon (their original purpose was to provide milk in areas where fresh milk was not available).

    Nestle Mexico cannot confirm a date, but did say that the company had published a recipe for Tres Leches Cake on the labels of milk cans sold in that country, and that the firm began manufacturing milk products in Mexico around World War II.

    Whatever the truth, “soaked” cakes had been a European tradition since medieval times: British rum cake, trifle, and fruitcake; Italian zuppa inglese and tiramisu, not to mention the soaked foods of the poor, bread pudding and pain perdu (French toast).

    The missing link is believed to be a Mexican cookbook with a recipe for “antes,” a bread soaked in wine and layered with milk custard, that appeared in Mexico in the 19th century [source].

    A search of Mexican cookbooks by journalist M.M. Pack produced these related recipes:

  • Torta de leche (milk cake), cake batter poured into a pan of sweetened scalded milk, baked, and served floating in its milk sauce.
  • Antes, bread soaked in wine and layered with milk custard and fruit or nuts, which appears in Mexico in the 19th century.
  • Sopa Borracha and Ante de Almendra, two soaked cakes from Oaxaca.
  • Cookbook author Patricia Quintana, in her book The Taste of Mexico, opines that Tres Leches comes from Sinaloa, a state on the country’s west coast across from Baja. She provides a colonial-era recipe for Viceroy’s Cake: sherry-drenched layers of cake, custard, fruit, and meringue.
  •  
    And then, a cake called Tres Leches emerges.

    As the recipe traveled from region to region, local bakers added their own touches. In the rum-focused Caribbean islands, rum was added to the “soak.” In U.S. chefs added caramelized milk to create a cuatro leches cake [source].

    Modern Tres Leches Cake

    Tres Leches Cake began to get noticed north of the border toward the end of the 20th century.

  • In 1997, Rich’s, an American food manufacturer, began to sell a premixed, liquid dairy product called Tres Riches, a soak for food-service tres leches cakes.
  • Both Häagen-Dazs and Blue Bell ice cream introduced a tres leches ice cream flavor in 2003.
  •  
    And American home cooks have created every variation: Bailey’s Irish Cream, berry, chocolate, coconut, coffee, marble, peach, pecan, pumpkin, red velvet…

    Not to mention bundts, cupcakes, naked cakes, puddings and stack cakes (the originals were sheet cakes baked in rectangular pans), iced with cinnamon cream cheese frosting, dulce de leche buttercream, even topped with a layer of flan.
     
    Many thanks to journalists M.M. Pack and Patricia Sharpe for their intrepid research into the topic. We hope they enjoyed many slices of Tres Leches Cake along the way.

     

    RECIPE: CARAMEL COCONUT TRES LECHES CAKE

    Ingredients For One 8″-9″ Cake
     
    Ingredients For The Cake

  • 4 eggs, room temperature, separated
  • ¾ cup flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
  •  
    Ingredients For The Soak

  • 1 16-ounce can coconut milk
  • ¼ cup dulce de leche (or caramel sauce)
  • ½ cup whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  •  
    Ingredients For The Topping

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup toasted coconut
  • Dulce de leche for drizzling
  •  
    Preparation

    Audra, The Baker Chick, notes that she used a 7 inch springform pan, but thinks an 8- or 9-inch cake pan works the best. “The thicker the cake, the harder it is to really get those liquids to soak. Any of those options are fine, or you could double the recipe and use a 9 x 13 rectangular pan.

    1. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Generously butter the inside and sides of a 8 or 9 inch round cake pan* and line with a parchment round. Sprinkle with flour- set aside.

    2. COMBINE the egg yolks and ½ cup of the sugar in a large mixing bowl. Whisk until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

    3. BEST the egg whites on medium high in a very clean stand mixer bowl or a large mixing bowl, using a whisk attachment until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar while the mixer runs and continue beating until stiff peaks form.

    4. PILE about one-third of the egg whites into the yolk mixture. Gently fold them together until smooth. Add half of the flour and continue to gently fold, being careful to not deflate the egg whites. Repeat with another third of egg whites, the rest of the flour, and the last third of whites. Do not over-mix, but the batter should be smooth, airy and fluffy.

     

    Tres Leches Cake With Caramel Sauce

    Tres Leches Cake With Caramel Sauce

    The Baker Chick’s take on Tres Leches Cake, adapted from a Williams-Sonoma recipe (photos courtesy The Baker Chick).

     

    5. POUR the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until the top of the cake springs back when lightly touched or a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. While the cake is baking, combine the soak ingredients in a liquid measuring cup and set aside.

    6. RUN a knife around the edge of the cake pan, and invert the cake onto a wire rack. Peel off the parchment, then flip the cake right side up so it can cool. After the cake has cooled for about 15 minutes, use a fork to prick it all over, not forgetting the sides, edges and all over the top. Try to get pretty close to the bottom of the cake.

    7. USE a spoon or pour the soaking liquid over the cake, a little at a time, waiting for it to absorb before adding more. Use the spoon and gently press the liquid into the cake•. It may seem like a lot of liquid, but use as much as you can to soak the cake.

    8. CHILL the cake in the fridge for an hour or more, to really let the flavors soak and set.

    9. WHIP the cream and once the cake is done chilling, dollop on the whipped cream, drizzle with extra dulce de leche and sprinkle on the toasted coconut. Store in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.

    ________________

    *Audra, The Baker Chick actually used a new syringe to inject the liquid. You can buy similar devices for shooting liquid into cakes. She says: Pull up the liquid and then literally inject it into the sides and top of the cake. It works surprisingly well.

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Sweet & Spicy

    Watermelon Agua Fresca With Tajin

    Mango WIth Tajin

    Mango Ice Cream With Tajin

    Mango Paletas With Tajin

    Tajin Seasoning

    Cheese and Honey

    [1] Watermelon agua fresca with a spicy rim. Or, switch out the salt on your Margarita (recipe).[2] Fresh fruit perks up with a sprinkle of Tajin. [3] On ice cream or sorbet: cool with sweet heat (photos #1, #2 and #3 courtesy Tajin). [4] A sprinkle of Tajin is a must on paletas—Mexican ice pops. Here’s the recipe for these mango-lime paletas sfrom Christy Wilson Nutrition. [5] Tajin: Buy a bottle of mix your own (see bingrediengs below; photo courtesy PicClick). [6] Mix it into condiments, from ketchup to honey (photo of cheese board courtesy Martha Stewart Living).

     

    Mankind has been combining sweet and spicy flavors since ancient times…and up to just yesterday (2016), when Doritos Spicy Sweet Chili tortilla chips appeared on store shelves.

    The combination of sweet heat has been part of global cuisines from Asia to Mexico. If you’ve never sprinkled a mango or lime paleta—a Mexican ice pop—with spicy heat, you’ve been missing out!

    Cultures around the world variously use black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi and white pepper for heat.

    Whatever the combination with whatever sweet element (agave, honey, sugar, fruit), after an initial bite of sweet, the heat builds into a kick: a combination that appeals to many.

    For Cinco de Mayo, we’re focusing on the famous heat of Latin America: hot chiles (all about chiles).

    At the restaurant level, sweet and spicy has been showcased in casual fare (burgers, chicken wings, pizza), chocolate (bars, bonbons, desserts and spicy hot chocolate).

    Ketchup and other sweet condiments are good candidates to combine sweet and heat.

    Small manufacturers have long been featuring sweet and spicy, from jerky flavors to rice chips, tortilla chips and crackers.

    Even chocolate bars, a standard bearer for sweet, has been combined with spicy for at least 20 years. Today, you’ll find this combination in everything from savory Mexican mole sauce to desserts.

    In fact, the first chocolate consumed—an Aztec beverage for the elite—ground roasting cacao beans, with and vanilla—plus chiles, allspice and spicy petals from a local tree (Cymbopetalum penduliflorum, a member of the custard apple family known in English as sacred earflower.

    While honey only arrived with the Conquistadors in 1519, the local agave sap was not used as a sweetener.

    SWEET & HEAT PAIRINGS

    Some of our favorites:

  • Cocktails: start with fruity (mango, pineapple) and look online for tons of ideas
  • Fresh fruit slices (including cucumber) and fruit salad (sprinkled)
  • Fruit sauces for proteins (chicken, duck, pork, turkey)
  • Fruit sauces for desserts (mango, orange, pineapple)
  • Ketchup and other sweet condiments (barbecue sauce, chutney, honey, glaze, hot pepper jelly, fruit preserves, maple syrup, marinade, teriyaki sauce)
  • Mexican hot chocolate
  • Red salsa with chopped berries, mango, stone fruits (e.g. peaches), pineapple
  • Spicy cheese (pepper jack, cheddar with habanero, horseradish or jalapeño) or fresh-to-aged cheesewith spicy honey
  •  
    Why sweet heat? Why now?

    More and more Americans are enjoying spicier foods, due to the growth in popularity of International cuisines (not just Mexican, but Indian, Thai and numerous others).

    They ported the sweet-heat combinations found in ethnic dishes to provide a more complex depth of flavor to traditional, European-based foods.

  • When sweet is added to spice, the heat is mitigated, allowing the taste of the spice to be better captured and appreciated without burning one’s taste buds.
  • When spice is added to sweet, it gives food an unexpected kick.
  • Mexican hot chocolate, anyone?

    If you’re ready for some sweet heat, start with a spice mix. You can play with hot sauce and sliced of pureed jalapeños later.

    Mix your own hot spice blend (more about that below), or buy a bottle of Tajin seasoning.

    WHAT IS TAJIN SEASONING?

    Made by Tajin Products, a Mexican company, this mildly spicy seasoning combines chili, lime and salt. It is delicious on fruits: citrus, cucumber, melon, and tropical fruit (mango, papaya, pineapple, etc.); and in cooked fruit recipes.

    It’s a versatile seasoning. In addition to its popularity as a glass rimmer for cocktails or juice drinks, try it on:

  • Eggs
  • Fries
  • Ice pops and sorbet
  • Popcorn
  • Proteins
  • Mozzarella sticks
  • Salads
  • Vegetables and grains
  • Wherever you want a kick of heat
  •  
    A Mexican staple, you can find Tajin seasoning in the Mexican foods aisle in supermarkets, in Latin American food stores, and online.

    If you want to make your own, mix lime zest with cayenne, chile flakes, chile powder, jalapeño—or go beyond Mexico to layer on international heat: black pepper (India), horseradish (Mediterranean), hot paprika (Spanish Basque region), mustard powder (China) or wasabi (Japan).

    You can add yet another layer your spice mix—perhaps some cumin or curry powder.

     
    THE SENSORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SPICES

    Spices don’t have a single flavor profile: They have several. Thanks to Spices Inc. for this analysis of the 15 most commonly used sensory characteristics when describing the flavor and aroma profiles of spices.

    Both spices and herbs are obtained from plants.

  • Spices are seeds, fruits, roots, barks, or other plant substances, primarily used for flavoring, coloring or preserving food.
  • Herbs are the leaves, flowers, or stems of plants, used for flavoring or as a garnish.
  • While pepper is a spice (it’s the fruit of a vine), salt is neither an herb nor a spice. It is a mineral, mined underground (from ancient, dry lake beds) or evaporated from sea water (i.e., sea salt). It is thus not included with these taste characteristics, as its flavor in foods doesn’t come from spices (or herbs).
  •  
    Spices have secondary functions as well, for coloring and as a preservative, antioxidant or medicine. The focus here is on their culinary uses: flavor and color.
     
    THE SENSORY CHARACTERISTICS OF SPICES

    The flavors:

  • Bitter: ajwain, bay leaf, celery, clove, cumin, epazote, fenugreek seeds, horseradish, juniper, lavender, mace, marjoram, oregano, savory, Sichuan peppercorns, star anise, turmeric, thyme.
  • Cooling: anise, fennel, sweet basil.
  • Earthy: achiote, cumin, saffron, turmeric.
  • Floral: coriander, lemongrass, rose petals, saffron, sweet basil thyme.
  • Fruity: anise, fennel, nigella, savory, star anise, tamarind.
  • Herbaceous: dill weed, lavender, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, savory, tarragon and thyme
  • Hot: black pepper, chiles, horseradish, mustard, wasabi, white pepper.
  • Nutty: ajwain, black cardamom, coriander seed, cumin seed, fenugreek seeds, mustard seed,poppy seed, sesame seed.
  • Piney: bay leaf, rosemary thyme.
  • Pungent: allspice, epazote, garlic, ginger, grains of paradise, horseradish, marjoram, mustard, onion, paprika, spearmint, star anise, wasabi.
  • Sour: amchur, pomegranate, sumac, tamarind.
  • Spicy: bay leaf, cassia cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, curry leaf, ginger, marjoram, nutmeg.
  • Sulfury: asafoetida, chives, garlic, onion.
  • Sweet: allspice, anise, caraway, cassia cinnamon, chervil, clove, dill seed, fennel, green cardamom, nutmeg, poppy seed, sesame seed, star anise.
  • Woody: cardamom, Ceylon cinnamon, clove, juniper, lavender, rosemary, Sichuan peppercorns.
  •  
      

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    RECIPE: Strawberry Pistachio Nougat + Nougat History

    If your Mother’s Day celebration includes nougat fans, whip up a batch of this Strawberry Pistachio Nougat from chef and cookbook author Samir Nosrat.

    Nougat (U.S. pronunciation: NOO-got, French pronounciation NOO-gah) is a family of chewy confections made with sugar or honey, roasted nuts, whipped egg whites, and sometimes, chopped candied fruit (photo #7, below).

    It can be cut into rectangles or squares, broken into irregular pieces like toffee or dipped in chocolate (nougat bars, or enrobed bonbons.

    We saw one recipe where the nougat was cut layered onto a brownies between the cake and the frosting; and a recipe for Snickers Brownies that adds a layer of caramel as well.

    Nougat is a regular ingredient in popular candy* bars and chocolates—including those you would never suspect, because the nougat blends into a very different consistency and appearance (follow the asterisk).

    TYPES OF NOUGAT

    There are three basic kinds of nougat.

  • The most common is white nougat, photo #6 below, is known in Italy as torrone and mandorlato in Italy, turrón in Spain, and nougat (the “t” is not pronounced) in France. It is a simple recipe: beaten egg whites, and honey and nuts. It first appeared in Cologna Veneta, Italy, in the early 15th century. The first published recipe in Spain appears in Alicante, in the 16th century. The first recipe found in France is from Montélimar, in the 18th century. White nougat is used as the base for modern flavored nougats.
  • Spanish turrón follows the traditional recipe, with toasted almonds (minimum 60% almond content!), sugar, honey, and egg whites.
  • Italian torrone (photo #6) includes these same basic ingredients, using different nuts (no legal minimum) plus vanilla or citrus flavoring. It is often sandwiched between two very thin sheets of rice paper (photo #4, cocoa-flavored).
  • Venetian nougat, made in the town of Cologna Veneta is well known for its nougat production, especially the type called mandorlato. It is made from honey, sugar, egg whites and almonds (mandorle in Italian). It has a different taste and a harder bite than torrone.
  • British nougat is traditionally made in the style of the Italian and Spanish varieties. The most common industrially-produced nougat, commonly found at fairgrounds and seaside resorts, is colored pink and white, with almonds and cherries. The pink nougat is often fruit-flavored. It is sometimes wrapped in edible rice paper, which keeps stickiness from the fingers.
  • U.S. candy artisans make conventional white nougat to modern flavors and colors: black cherry, café au lait, cranberry, matcha, pumpkin and so forth. There’s even an all-American chocolate-peanut nougat (photo #5).
  •  
    The Other Types Of Nougat

  • The second is type is brown nougat, called nougat noir (NOO-gah-NWAHR) in French (which literally means black nougat). It is made without egg whites and has a firmer, often crunchy texture. See photo #8 below, which (like most of the photos) links to the recipe.
  • The third type of nougat is known as German or Viennese nougat. It contains only sugar, cocoa butter, nuts (usually hazelnuts) and cocoa mass, and has a soft consistency, similar to gianduja (chocolate and ground hazelnuts, also known as hazelnut praliné. It is often sliced from a loaf. This is the style called “nougat” in Germany and Austria, as well as in Denmark and Sweden. In the latter two countries, the original white nougat is referred to as “French nougat.” In Germany, is simply called nougat [source]. See photo #10, below.
  • ________________

    *In the U .S. alone: Baby Ruth, Big Hunk, Charleston Chews, Mars Bar, Milky Way, Pay Day, Reese’s Fast Break, Snickers, Three Musketeers, Zero Bar. However, the nougat that appears in many modern candy bars in the U.S. and U.K. is different from traditional recipes, including in several cases, the original recipes of those candy bars.

    Modern candy bar nougat is often a mixture of sucrose and corn syrup, aerated with a whipping agent such as egg white or hydrolyzed soy protein or gelatin. It may also include vegetable fats and milk powder. This type of nougat is often used as a filler by large candy companies, since it’s inexpensive to make. Typically, it is used plain or chocolate-flavored, or combined with nuts, caramel and/or chocolate to make the body of the candy bar. But some American confections feature such nougat as the primary component, rather than one of several.
    ________________

    RECIPE: STRAWBERRY PISTACHIO NOUGAT

    These are shown in photo #1 (rectangle cut) and photo #2 (square cut). Prep time is 15 minutes, cook time is 10 minutes.

    For step-by-step photo, visit ACozyKitchen.com. While you’re there, sign up for the inspiring blog feed.

    Ingredients For 14 Pieces

  • 1/2 cup freeze-dried strawberries
  • 2 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
  • 6 tablespoons light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Optional: 2 drops red food coloring
  • 2/3 cup chopped pistachios
  •  
    Plus

  • Loaf pan
  • Parchment or wax paper
  • Spatula, pre-sprayed with cooking spray
  •    

    Strawberry Nougat

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    Rosewater Pistachio Nougat

    Chocolate Almond Nougat

    Chocolate Peanut Nougat

    White nougat (or its colored variations) can be cut into [1] fingers or [2] squares (recipe at left; photo courtesy A Cozy Kitchen). [3] Another pink nougat; East meets West in this rosewater, pistachio and cranberry nougat. Here’s the recipe from The Healthy Cook. [4] A variation of Italian torrone with cocoa (chocolate) flavoring and almonds, with edible rice paper on the top and bottom. Here’s the recipe from Butter Baking. [5] The All-American: chocolate peanut nougat. Here’s the recipe from Kitchen Sanctuary.

     
    Preparation

    1. PLACE the freeze-dried strawberries in a food processor. Pulse until the strawberries turn into a powder (a clumpy texture is O.K.). Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.

    2. LINE a 8 x 5-inch (a 9 x 5-inch will work too) loaf pan with wax paper or parchment, making sure there are a few inches of flaps on each side (this will make the removal of the nougat super easy). Spray a spatula with cooking spray.

    3. COMBINE the sugar, corn syrup, honey, water and salt in a medium saucepan. Give it a light stir until everything dissolves; then cook until a digital thermometer reads 260°F (the hardball stage).

    4. ADD the egg whites to the bowl of a stand-up mixer (or use a hand-mixer) and beat on low until they begin to get frothy and eventually turn into stiff peaks. While beating the stiff egg whites at low, slowly pour in the sugar syrup (step 3). Immediately add the powdered strawberries.

    5. TURN the speed of the mixer to high and beat until the candy starts to thicken and hold a bit of shape, 4 to 5 minutes. Pour in the pistachios and transfer the nougat to the loaf pan, using the pre-sprayed spatula—the nougat will be sticky.

    6. TOP with a sheet of wax paper. Press the top of the wax paper down to the surface so the top of the nougat will be smooth and even. Allow to set at room temperature for about 2 hours. When the nougat has set…

    7. LIFT up the sides the wax paper, remove the top sheet and spray a sharp knife with cooking spray. Cut up the nougat with a sharp knife into slices or 1 x 1-inch cubes.

    Nougat will stay fresh for a week when kept in an airtight container.

     

    Pistachio Nougat

    White Chocolate Nougat With Nuts & Candied Fruits

    Nougat Noir With Hazelnuts

    Brown Nougat

    German Nougat

    [6] Classic vanilla nougat with nuts (here, pistachios, although almonds are common and any nut can be used). Here’s the recipe from Aran Goyoaga, Canelle et Vanille. [7] White chocolate nougat with nuts and fruits. Photo © Elizabeth LaBau. Here’s the recipe from The Spruce. [8] Brown nougat, a.k.a. nougat noir, with hazelnuts. Here’s the recipe (in French) from Les Foodies, and [9] a loaf recipe recipe (in Italian) from Tavolarte Gusto). [10] German or Viennese nougat: hazelnut praline (photo courtesy Juergen Jeibmann | German Wikipedia).

     

    THE HISTORY OF NOUGAT

    The French word nougat, adopted by English speakers, comes from Occitan (dialect of Provence, France) pan nogat, likely derived from the Latin panis nucatus, nut bread. In late colloquial Latin, the adjective nucatum means nutted or nutty.

    The earliest known recipes for white nougat, which probably came from Central Asia, have been found in the Middle East.

    A 10th century book from Baghdad (in modern Iraq) calls the recipe natif. One of the recipes indicates that the it comes from Harran, a city located between Urfa, now in southeast Turkey. Another comes from Aleppo, in Syria.

    Mention of natif is found in works from the triangle between Urfa, Aleppo and Baghdad.

    At the end of the 10th century, the traveler and geographer Ibn Hawqal wrote that he ate some natif in Manbij (in modern Syria) and Bukhara (in modern Uzbekistan) [source].

    When it reached southern Europe, notably Italy and Spain, nougat (called, respectively, torrone and turrón) was a specialty associated with the Christmas season.

    Next Stop: Renaissance Italy

    Thanks to Flamingi, makers of fine Italian nougat, for helping us to continue the story.

    We start with a tale, likely apocryphal. It takes place in the city of Cremona, in the northern Italian region of Lombardy. On October 25, 1441: Bianca Maria Visconti was married to Francesco Sforza. The union allowed the Sforza family to dominate the Duchy of Milan for the next half century.

    According to the story, nougat (torrone) was first created for the wedding feast.

    It was made in it the shape of the Torrazzo, the bell tower of the Cremona cathedral. The claim is that torrone derives from “Torrazzo” (but wait….)

    Is the story too good to be true? Yes: It seems to have been cited for the first time in a monograph published by the Chamber of Commerce of Cremona in 1914.

    Earlier Claims From The Other End Of Italy

    Let’s head south, to Benevento, the main town of the ancient Sannio region (in Latin, Samnium) in the southern part of Italy in what is now Campania. The people there lay claim to have having invented torrone.

    As proof, they refer to the Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius, 59 B.C.E. to 17 C.E.) and the Roman poet Martial (Marcus Valerius Martialis, 40 C.E. to 104 C.E.), claiming that these ancients documented in their writings the existence of nougat in that area, called cupedia.

    However, in this digitized world, research cannot find a mention of cupedia. There is a similar Latin word, cuppedia, that does not appear in the writings of Livy and Martial.

    Cuppedia can be translated as the deadly sin of gluttony, or as a delicacy. But what type of delicacy?

    Italy As The Origin Gets Very Confusing

    In various Italian dialects there are similar words: cupeta, copeta, copata and coppetta, which identify sweets similar to nougat or croccante, a product made with almonds or hazelnuts bound with caramelized sugar.

    Cupeta and torrone are traditional products not only in Sannio, but also in Abruzzo, Calabria, Emilia Romagna, Lazio, Lombardy, Marche, Molise, Piedmont, Puglia, Sardinia, Tuscany, Valtellina, Veneto and finally, in Sicily, where croccante is called cubbaita.

    That’s a lot of territory, for one to claim to be “the first” to invent torrone, absent any documentation.

    By the 16th century, however, torrone is documented for sale in some apothecaries. Earlier, by the 15th century, turrón is documented in Spain.

    The Spanish word, turrón, is quite similar to the Italian word torrone, and its most reliable source can be found in the Latin verb torrere, which means to toast (the nuts).

    So take that, Torrazo bell tower of the Cremona cathedral! Take that, Benevento. We’re sticking with the Middle East, around the 10th century.

    Back To The Middle East

    References there to “roasted seeds kept together by a sweet paste” can equally refer to other products produced in many countries, starting with the Middle Eastern halva, made from ground sesame seeds and honey.

    Some scholars suggest it originated before the 12th century, in Byzantium, and is documented at least by the 13th century—so nougat/natif is older.

    Similar roasted seeds or nuts bound with a sweet paste can be found in other Middle Eastern Countries, as well as in the Slavic countries, and as far away as India.

    While the earliest residents of the Middle East ate dates and figs and honey† as their “candy,” their descendants combined ingredients into more complex sweets.

     
    Now, we just need someone to dig up documented information in Central Asia (from the Caspian Sea in the west to China in the east, from Afghanistan in the south to Russia in the north) to discover the first mention of nougat—whatever it was called there.

    Honey: The Oldest Candy

    Archaeologists have found beehive colonies in Israel, dating from the 10th to early 9th centuries B.C.E. [source].

    But honey is far older than mankind—very far.

    Honeybees first appeared during the Cretaceous Period, about 130 million years ago, in the area around what is now India.

    But it was during a Pleistocene warming about 2-3 million years ago, that the honeybee spread west into Europe and then Africa (still no mankind†), stopping in the Middle East en route [source].
     
     
    DO YOU LIKE FOOD HISTORY?

    THE NIBBLE has written some 200 histories of foods, beverages, and cooking techniques.

    Some are just a couple of paragraphs, some are as long as the history above, and most are in-between.

    You can find all the links on our food histories page.

    ________________

    †Species of early Homonids appeared in Africa about 2 million years ago and went extinct, as did all the other hominid lines before Homo sapiens. The modern species of Homo appeared about 600,000 years ago in Africa and migrated from there to Europe and Asia. The Neanderthals appeared in Europe about 130,000 years ago, distinguished by their manufacture of diverse tools and evidence of symbolic thinking. [source].

    Thus far, the earliest discovery of modern Homo sapiens skeletons come from Africa and date to nearly 200,000 years ago. They appear in Southwest Asia around 100,000 years ago and elsewhere in the Old World by 60,000-40,000 years ago [source].

      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Tricolor (Multicolor) Tortilla Chips

    Today’s tip is to make Cinco de Mayo (and any celebration) more colorful with tri-color taco chips.

    Some brands sell them in mixed-color bags. Or you can buy your favorite brand in different colors and mix them yourself.

    Tortilla chips, such a popular snack food and dip holder, is a relatively new Tex-Mex food, created in 1940s Los Angeles by Rebecca Webb Carranza, who owned a tortilla shop and Mexican delicatessen.

    THE HISTORY OF TORTILLA CHIPS

    Rebecca Webb was born in Durango, Mexico in 1907, to Leslie Webb, an engineer from Utah who worked for an American mining company in Mexico, and his Mexican-born wife, Eufemia Miranda.

    In Durango, her family, including five brothers lived through the turmoil of raids by Pancho Villa and other bandits. Pancho Villa especially did not like her father, because he was American.

    Leslie Webb moved the family moved to El Paso, Texas when Rebecca was a pre-teen. After her parents divorced, in the 1920s, her mother brought the children to Los Angeles. She met her future husband, Mario Carranza, on a blind date, and they married in 1931.

    At that time, she was sewing ties for a neckwear company, and he worked in finance at O’Keefe & Merritt, an appliance maker. On the advice of a friend who ran a successful tortilla shop in East Los Angeles, the Carranzas opened one in the early 1940s and moved into an apartment above the tortilla factory and shop. [source: L.A. Times].

    The deli sold fresh tortillas daily. In the tortilla factory, she observed the daily waste of misshapen tortillas and leftover dough that were discarded.

    She set out to do something with the discarded tortillas.

    According to the Boston Globe, for a family party in the late 1940s, Ms. Carranza cut some of the discarded tortillas into triangles and fried them into a delicious, crunchy snack.

    A hit with the relatives, she soon was selling them for a dime a bag at her delicatessen, and at the factory that made them for her in southwest Los Angeles.

    From Handmade To Conveyor Belt

    Tortillas met the machine age in the late 1940s. The Carranza’s El Zarape Tortilla Factory was among the first to automate the production of tortillas, acquiring a tortilla-making machine in 1947.

    Tortillas poured off the conveyor belt more than 12 times faster than they could be made by hand.

    At first many, came out bent or misshapen, recalled decades later, and were thrown away. So we can thank tortilla machinery for the existence of taco chips.

    The chips Ms. Carranza created were initially called tostadas, from the Spanish word for toasted.

    Tortilla chips became a wild success among her customers. In addition to snacking from the bag, they were used with Mexican dips such as guacamole and salsa, and even with refried beans.

    By the 1960s, the snack chips, packaged as Tortills Chips, were distributed up and down the West Coast by El Zarape, and had evolved into El Zarape’s primary business.

    Competition Arrives

    The product came to the notice of Frito-Lay, which began making their a mass-market version of the crunchy triangles. Soon, other manufacturers got into the act.

    She turned her tortilla chip business over to her husband when they divorced in 1951, and he moved the factory to Long Beach. But by 1967, El Zarape was forced out of business by competition the superior marketing clout of Doritos and Fritos.

       

    Pumpkin Salsa Tricolor Tortilla Chips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips With Dips

    Tricolor Tortilla Chips Bag

    Multicolor Tortilla Chips

    [1] Tricolor chips with pumpkin salsa from The Veg Life. [2] Tricolor chips with dips (crema, guacamole, salsa) from Tastespotting. [3] A bag of mixed chips from Abuelita’s [4] We mix and match our own colors with one of our favorite brands of tortilla chips, Food Should Taste Good. Beyond the mixed colors and shapes, there are eight different flavors, from traditional to jalapeño, kimchi and olive.

     
    In 1994 and 1995, Ms. Carranza was among the 20 Tex-Mex industry innovators honored with the Golden Tortilla Award, which was given by Azteca Milling of Irving, Texas.

    The hard-working Ms. Carranza worked in East Los Angeles into her 80s, first as a meat wrapper at grocery stores and then as a U.S. Census taker. She had three more relatively brief marriages, and in 2003, at the age of 95, moved to Phoenix to be near her family: 2 sons, 12 grandchildren, 19 great-grandchildren and 2 two great-great-grandchildren. She passed away at the age of 98.

    All of her descendants and take great pride that their abuela invented tortilla chips.

    It’s a nice story to share with a glass of beer and tortilla chips.

     

    Tex Mex Scrambled Eggs

    Nacho Hot Dogs

    Use leftover chips in [5] Tex-Mex scrambled eggs, [6] nacho hot dogs, and more everyday foods.

     

    MORE USES FOR TORTILLA CHIPS

    Whole chips, broken chips and the crumbs at the bottom of the bag, can all be repurposed to add crunch and flavor to everyday recipes. Some ideas:

    Burger crunch: taco-rubbed burgers with avocado and tortilla chips. Use this recipe from Kraft to season the burger meat; then add layers of avocado and broken taco chips.

    Casserole toppings: broken and crushed tortilla chip pieces are a great casserole topper. Here’s a recipe for Chicken Tortilla Casserole from Kristin’s Kitchen.

    Cheesy casseroles, like this Ranch Black Bean and Veggie Tortilla Casserole recipe from Mom Foodie.

    Chili Topping: Use the chips or crumbs for a chili topping, like this Salsa Verde White Chicken Chili recipe from The Comfort Of Cooking.

    Crusted Chicken, Fish & Seafood, like this Taco-Crusted Scallops recipe from The Woks Of Life.

    Egg Scrambles
    , like this Mexican Egg and Sweet Potato Breakfast Scramble recipe from Taste And Tell Blog.

    Hot Dog Topping, like this Nacho Hot Dogs recipe from A Spicy Perspective.

    Salad topping, from green salad and potato salad to Tex-Mex salads like this Chopped Taco Salad recipe from Cinnamon Spice And Everything Nice.

    Vegetable tots, like potato or this recipe for Tortilla-Chip Crusted Cauliflower Tots from Mom What’s For Dinner Blog.

     

      

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