Pastry and Dessert Recipes and Menus

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By Renee Shelton

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Croquante is a French candy made traditionally of almonds and honey. There are many different versions and alternates that can be found on the basic recipe, depending on where the candy was formed and the amounts and proportions of the ingredients. While there are many different versions, some things differentiate it from, say, classic brittles and other nut candies: the sugar is cooked with no water, and no salt, cream of tartar or baking soda is added to the recipe. (Click here for traditional and unusual brittle recipes.) According to The Roux Brothers on Patisserie, adding butter to nougatine "will give the nougatine an extra sheen but is not essential."

Of the different names it can found under, here are some classic terms:

  • Croquant or Croquante is a candy made traditionally of almonds and sometimes honey.
  • Italian Croccante is a similar style candy made with almonds, sugar and a little butter.
  • Cracknel is another version of the same thing: candied almonds with sugar and/or honey.
  • Nougatine is a caramelized sugar with usually sliced almonds. This is traditionally used for Pièces Montées (centerpieces) in pastry making. Below is a recipe for Nougat from The Epicurean, the classic recipe book from the famous Delmonico's restaurant, precisely for showpiece work.

This candy may be fabricated several ways after cooking:

    1. rolled out using a heavy heat proof rolling pin and cut while warm
    2. spread flat onto an oiled or buttered pan or silpat, cooled and broke into pieces
    3. dropped by spoonfuls into desired sized pieces
    4. or simply poured onto buttered surface and left to cool, then ground or chopped as desired.

Multiple applications here. Besides a garnish or vessel or centerpiece for other pastries, such as a bowl for truffles or a structure for croquembouche, you can use these as a base or bottom for a dessert (when chopped fine and added with other ingredients), or as a topper for a dessert served a la minute. Below are different recipes to try of this versatile candy/pastry ingredient.

Adapted from The Good Cook Candy, this recipe cooks all the ingredients together rather than sugar first.

3/4 c sugar
1 1/4 c chopped almonds
5 T honey, plus more if nesc.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, stir the sugar, almonds and honey over medium high heat until sugar mixture reaches 149°C to 154°C, hard crack stage (300°F to 310°F) where dropping a sample in ice water will solidify the piece. Watch the mixture as it reaches temperature and if it gets too thick, add in another tablespoon of the honey. When done, pour onto an oiled, heat-proof surface and spread to about 1/4 inch thick with an oiled pin. Before cooling completely, cut into desired squares.

Black Nougat with Honey and Thyme (Le Nougat Noir au Miel)
This candy contains only honey and nuts, and is flavored with fresh thyme.

2 c honey
1 lb. whole almonds, with skins, dried
about 2 T fresh thyme leaves

Line a heavy 9 inch square baking pan with foil and liberally butter all sides; reserve. Find a cutting boards or other wooden board that can fit snugly inside the pan and set aside (this will be placed over the candy when finished to ensure evenness of the candy as it cools). In a heavy bottomed saucepan, heat honey slowly to hot and add in the almonds and thyme at the same time. Continue to cook the mixture while stirring until the honey starts to turn dark brown in color and the almonds begin to crackle, about 25 to 30 minutes. Pour mixture into reserved pan, and place another piece of foil buttered side down on top of the candy. Immediately place the cutting board over the candy and a few canned vegetables or similar items to weigh down the board to press the candy evenly. Allow the candy to cool several hours, letting it cool down on its own without placing in a cooler. When completely cooled, remove board, remove from pan and take off foil. Smash, beat or cut candy into desired sized pieces.

Italian Cracknel (Croccante)
This candy has a bit of butter that is optionally added to make the candy richer.

1 c blanched and peeled almonds, slivered
1/2 c sugar
2 T butter, optional

Line a 12 inch square baking pan with foil and liberally butter all sides; reserve. Slowly melt the sugar over low to medium-low heat in a heavy bottomed sauce pan. When the sugar starts to boil and get bubbly, add in the almonds. If you want to use butter, add it in at this stage with the almonds. Stirring the mixture, continue to cook until the sugar mixture reaches a dark cinnamon color. When finished immediately shock the pan bottom in ice water to stop the cooking and pour into reserved pan. Using a buttered wooden spoon spread out the candy evenly. Allow the candy to cool completely, about 2 to 3 hours or more depending on temperature of the pastry kitchen. Unmold when cooled and break into desired pieces.

Adapted from The Roux Brothers on Patisserie. In the book, under the recipe for Croquembouche, there is an excellent shaping and assembly preparation that goes into detail how to create a base for the Croquembouche and other Pièces Montées. Use only sliced almonds when creating showpiece bases for the most attractive structures.

4 c sliced almonds
2 3/4 c sugar
1/4 c whole butter, optional
2 1/2 T peanut oil, for oiling the pans and marble
Additional cooked hard crack sugar, to stick nougatine pieces together, optional
Royal icing, for piped decoration after the piece has set up, optional

On a sheet pan, lightly toast almonds in a 350°F oven. Do not over bake, the object is very lightly toasted only. Stir the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over low heat until melted and reaches a light golden color. Add in the almonds and stir over low heat for about a minute. Add in the butter, if using, then pour the candy onto a lightly oiled sheet pan. Place this pan near a warmed oven, with the door open to keep the nougatine candy easy to work with. Alternately, using a sugar lamp will help keep the candy mass warmed while you are fabricating portions of the nougatine. Working with only 1 piece at a time, place desired amount to be rolled on a lightly oiled marble. The work must be done quickly as the candy sets up fast. Roll out each piece no thicker than a 1/4 inch and quickly cut out shapes with a cutter or knife. If molding, move quickly so the shape follows the molds, before it sets up hard. If using a mold (bowl, pastry or flan rings, etc.) be sure to let the nougatine set up completely before unmolding as if it is taken off too soon, the candy will fall and lose shape. If any piece sets up too quickly before you have a chance to finish molding, place back in the oven to reheat. If connecting or attaching two or more pieces of nougatine candy together, dip the ends in hot, reserved hard crack sugar (sugar and water cooked to hard crack stage) and stick together. When piece is finished, use royal icing to create a classical look if desired.

Nougat Brun Pour Pièces Montées
This recipe is from The Epicurean, the recipe book from Delmonico's published in 1894. The recipe has been updated for current times, although the methodology has been kept.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, melt 1 pound of sugar and the juice of a quartered lemon over medium heat, stirring constantly. When dissolved, add in 1 pound of chopped almonds that have been kept warm in a low oven. For larger showpieces and for making a nougat that easier to work with and mold, use six to eight ounces of nuts for every pound of sugar. Mold cooked nougat in arabesque molds, tin leaves for forming molding around different sized rings or stick-shapes for columns. When rolled out to 3/16 of an inch or thinner, cut around cut-out cardboard designs, such as rounds, ovals, oblongs, triangles, curves, etc.

A simple recipe for the classic version. This recipe can be used with your desired amount of nuts and sugar: 1 c nuts to 1 c sugar; 2 c nuts to 2 c sugar; 2 1/2 c nuts to 2 1/2 c sugar, etc. Just remember to use equal quantities of sugar and nuts. Adapted from The Ultimate Candy Book, by Bruce Weinstein.

2 c sugar, divided into thirds
2 c slivered almonds, chopped fine
Oil, as needed

For nougatine pieces: oil a foil-lined cookie sheet. For molding bowls: invert desired bowls and cover with foil. Oil generously. Place over a foil-lined cookie sheet to catch runoff.

Place one third of the sugar in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat and stir until sugar is melted. Add in another third of the sugar and stir again constantly until the sugar is melted. Add in the final amount of sugar and stir until melted and golden in color. Add in the nuts and remove from heat. Stir until incorporated. Pour onto the oiled sheet and spread with an oiled offset metal spatula very thin, let cool for a few hours to completely set up and break into pieces. Alternately, ladle the candy over the inverted heat proof bowls to create candy dishes. Allow to cool completely, then lift off bowl. If the candy sticks to the foil, remove the foil/candy from the bowl and peel the foil from the candy.

Copyright © 2004-2010 Renee Shelton.
All Rights Reserved.


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