It’s the time of year for Christmas gifts: Kris Kringles, teacher thank yous, something for the host of a Christmas lunch, random presents. So I am sharing a recipe for an easy nougat recipe that is the chewiest, most addictive sweet treat you will ever eat. Really. And best of all, it doesn’t require a sugar thermometer or indeed anything difficult. No special ingredients and everything can be purchased cheaply in a supermarket.
What is Taiwanese nougat (牛軋糖)? How is it different to normal nougat?
Well, for starters it isn’t really a nougat. It isn’t a fancy hard sweet made with sugar toffee and beaten egg whites like a true (and delicious) Italian or French nougat. Instead, it is soft and chewy (or Q Q as they say in Taiwan). It is really more like a milk candy.
Nougat is popular in Taiwan (and in China); I have never worked out why, but I think it represents a yearning for European tastes. My ex husband used to bring me back packets of an amazing nougat from Taiwan back in the days when we were dating. The nougat was wrapped in brightly coloured Chinese style wrappings, a different colour for each flavour, with the outer packet emblazoned with a large gold stylized Chinese character. it was so beautiful just to look at. It was from a shop hidden in amongst food and tea and shoe vendors that catered to students going to cram schools near the Taipei Main Railway Station. The area is no longer as trendy as other areas in Taiwan, but to me that is part of its charm. And the nougat is also charming.
The nougat shop was run by the father of one of my ex husband’s former high school classmates (what a mouthful). The owner learnt how to make ‘proper’ nougat in Europe. But the nougat still doesn’t taste very European, not just because of the ‘Q Q’ chewy texture, but also because of the flavours. The shop sold traditional almond candies but also blended in Asian flavours such as green tea, coconut and cashew nuts. I loved getting the mixed variety pack as, a bit like a box of Roses chocolates, half of the fun is in choosing.
This recipe makes a small amount, but it is rich and is more than enough for a substantial present. The mixture requires stirring and burns easily (still much easier than a traditional nougat, and much quicker), so is easier to handle in small batches yet can be easily doubled. To create the real Taiwanese feel you can use Asian, fusion or other Western flavourings such as:
- Tiny jelly beans
- Peanuts and pieces of red and green wine gums cut into pieces
- Toasted coconut
- Black sesame seeds
- Rice bubbles
- Rum and raisin
- Green tea (Japanese matcha or Taiwanese high mountain tea)
- Oolong tea
- Chai tea
- Strawberry (using strawberry marshmellows and dried strawberries)
- Chocolate and crystallized ginger
And the recipe? I promised it is easy and it is:
120g marshmallows (around half an average packet)
80g (around 3/4 cup) milk powder
20g chocolate (around two squares – this is optional)
80 to 100g almonds or other nuts
- Roast the almonds in the oven until they get a bit puffy. Allow to cool. You can cheat and dry roast them in a cast iron frypan if you don’t want to roast them. But definitely roast them as it lifts the flavour to a whole new level.
- Melt the butter and marshmallows together in a saucepan over low heat. I find it works best with small marshmallows – these were a bit big so I cut them in pieces.
- Stir the mixture until smooth, then add in the milk powder. It might seem a like a lot, but the gooey marshmallow mixture absorbs it quickly. Stir vigorously, and keep stirring until the mixture comes together.
- The hard bit is to judge when the mixture is cooked enough. I find that if the mixture starts to burn easily on the bottom, than it is nearly ready. I generally cook a little bit part this stage.
- Add the two blocks of chocolate and stir until melted and combined. (Note: the chocolate is optional but helps the nougat set – it also tastes good as well.)
- Add in nuts or other flavourings, and then spoon into a small baking tray lined with paper. Allow to set several hours (or ideally overnight), then cut into pieces with a sturdy knife. Wrap in cellophane.
Total cost (based on ALDI prices):
40g butter 28c
80g (around 3/4 cup) milk powder 70c
20g chocolate (around two squares – this is optional) 30c
80 to 100g almonds or other nuts $2