Nougat is something I always associated with a sickly sweet, weirdly papery, somewhat stale confection. Freshly home made nougat is far from that, and well worth making at home.
A couple of warnings. You will be handling sugar syrup, also known as culinary napalm. Please handle with extreme care, you don’t want 3rd degree burns. The second warning is that this stuff is horribly addictive, so beware your waistline!
2 egg whites, room temperature
2 3/4 cups granulated sugar (500 g), plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup / 12 ounces (by weight) honey
1/3 cup / 80 ml water
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (optional)
1 vanilla bean, seeds scraped from inside (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups add-ins (toasted nuts, seeds, dried fruit, etc)
special equipment: candy thermometer, pastry brush
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside.
Use a clean, dry stand mixer to whip the egg whites to stiff peaks with 2 tablespoons of the sugar. In the mean time, in a small saucepan, over medium heat, bring the honey to 250F on a candy thermometer. Also, at the same time, in a medium saucepan, combine the remaining 2 3/4 cups sugar, water, and corn syrup (if using). Over medium heat, bring this mixture to 300F on a candy thermometer. Carefully and gently swirl the mixtures in their pans now and then, use a pastry brush dipped in water to brush any sugar from the sides of the pan. You want the honey to hit its temp first, followed by the sugar shortly thereafter.
With the mixer running, slowly pour the 250F honey down the side of the bowl into the egg whites. Let the mixer keep running, and as soon as your sugar mixture hits 300F, slowly pour the sugar mixture into the bowl as well, using the same technique (down the side of the bowl). Continue mixing for five minutes or so, until the temperature of the nougat is no longer hot. At this point, stir in the vanilla bean seeds and extract. Remove the bowl from the mixer, and fold in the nuts and seeds by hand.
Transfer the nougat onto the parchment-line baking sheet, cover with another sheet of parchment and allow to cool completely. Cut into desired shapes (the cleaner you can keep your knife the cleaner your cuts will be), and wrap in squares of parchment paper, or candy wrappers. Store in an air-tight container.