Why I Love This Recipe
Torrone is a traditional nougat candy from Italy (there's also the Spanish Turron, and a similar French candy). Any Italian American that grew up on the East Coast will probably recognize these from their local bakery/deli. It's got a great chew with a surprisingly delicate flavor.
This is sticky stuff, so make sure you use lots of cornstarch. Likewise, when you're prepping the pan, it's crucial that you get the wafer paper to fit snugly together but not overlap - if any of the torrone touches the metal baking pan, you'll never get it out. Wafer paper (or rice paper will do the same job) can be tough to find - look for it in a baking supply store. The level of humidity in the air can affect how this candy sets, so its best to make this on a relatively dry day.
This recipe was based on one from Gourmet Magazine, and it's surprisingly close to the taste I remember growing up. Of course, there are lots of variations - pistachios, or chocolate, or citrus - but I think tradition dictates a basic recipe. The orange-flower water is non-negotiable; you just won't get that true Mediterranean taste without it.
This recipe takes a long time, and involves a lot of candy-making knowledge, so if you're curious, I suggest you read up on all the science behind it; it can only make your candymaking skills better. But I will take the time to say: do not let your honey mixture burn or boil too fast or go above 315 degrees - it'll impart a burnt, almost BBQ-like flavor, and that's just not good candy.
Ingredients You'll Need
1 1/2 cups orange-blossom honey or other mild honey
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp orange-flower water
3/4 pure almond extract
2 1/2 cups (approx. 5 oz) slivered almonds, roasted and salted. cooled
SPECIAL EQUIPMENT: square metal baking pan (preferably 8"), candy thermometer, stand mixer with whisk attachment, edible wafer paper
Oil the baking pan, then line the bottoms and sides with pieces of the edible wafer paper. Trim so that all the paper fits snugly next to one another and does not overlap.
Put the honey, sugar, and water in a large pot (5-6 qt) and heat over low heat, stirring, until all the sugar has dissolved. At that point, bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat - do not stir the mixture at this point, but wash down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water, so that you keep all stray sugar crystals in the mixture. Once it's reached a boil, put a candy thermometer into the mixture and continue boiling until it reaches 310-315 degrees (this will take some time, as the syrup has to go through several transition temperatures).
When the honey mixture reaches 300 degrees, put the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a mixer and beat until they hold soft peaks. When the honey mixture comes to temperature, remove it from the heat, remove the candy thermometer, and let it sit on the counter to cool slightly, until all the remaining bubbles have dissipated.
With mixture running on low speed, SLOWLY pour the honey mixture into the egg whites in a thin stream down the side of the mixing bowl. Once all the honey is incorporated, increase the speed to high and let the mixture whip until the bowl has cooled until it is just warm to the touch, about 20 minutes - the mixture will swell and then fall, so you may need to adjust the mixer speed from time to time to keep it from bubbling over the top of the mixer. After this 20 minute period, add the orange-flower water and almond extract and mix again for one more minute. Add in the almonds and mix until just combined.
Sprinkle a work surface (marble is good) with a generous amount of cornstarch and turn out the mixture. Coat your hands in cornstarch and knead gently for a minute or so to fully distribute the almonds and to get the mixture coated.
Pat the torrone mixture into the prepared baking pan, making sure to work it into the corners and keep it an even thickness throughout. Cover the top of the torrone with more edible wafer paper, trimming to fit snugly as before. Let the torrone cool completely, about 8 hours.
After it has thoroughly cooled, run a thin knife around the edges of the pan, then flip the pan and turn the torrone out onto a cutting board. Leave the wafer paper on and trim into 1" wide strips. At this point, you may wrap in cornstarch-dusted parchment OR cut the torrone strips into smaller rectangles and then wrap.