Dancing the Meringue

August 9, 2012

Surprisingly, or perhaps not so surprisingly, Katie and I have done an awesome job making a new recipe every week. Largely the process by which we’ve done this is to check out a bunch of cook books from the library, copy all the recipes that look yummy, and then try them. If they’re good, we keep them, if they’re not, we give them to our friends.

(I kid, I kid).

Part of Katie’s secret plot is to expose me to some flavors we don’t typically cook with. I’m all for it since Father Burb** did a good job of giving us a huge range of foods as kids. I mean, how many people have had caviar before the age of 12 or have helped butcher their own deer. Seriously. That said, I’m a *little* skittish about certain flavors that I have not really cared for in the past. Most of those fall in to the category of Indian spices and flavors (This means you curry, coconut milk, and ginger!). The conflict comes in where Katie loves them and I hate them, so she checked out a book that had everything to do with using spices to make exciting food. I agreed to be open-minded about it, and we began copying recipes.

All of that is the preface to an only sort of related thought. In flipping through this book, Katie noticed a recipe for nougat. Like, REAL nougat. Not that stuff you find in candy bars, the stuff you find in the Mediterranean. She also recalled that I happen to REALLY REALLY LOVE nougat. Who knew it would be that easy to get me to like eastern flavors. Ha!

Anyhoo, she decided to “make me some” which actually means she started them, then got wrapped up in something else, so *I* made nougat. Still, it doesn’t really matter how it happened, the important thing is that it did.

Nougat, like so many other forms of yumminess, start with a hefty amount of sugar. In this case we are working with a blend of sugar, corn syrup, and honey. Bring this to a boil, stirring/whisking occasionally until it incorporates and begins to boil. Clip in your candy thermometer and brush the sides of the pan down with water. Then let it go.

While the syrup mixture is coming up to temperature, take some room-temperature egg whites and start whipping them in to meringue. Tip: Using room-temperature eggs is awesome because they are so much easier to work with, especially for something like meringue. Because the eggs are warmer, the proteins have an easier time relaxing and stretching out, meaning you can work it harder faster. Whip your egg whites in to softish to lightly stiff peaks. Tip: Save back your egg yolks! We turned right around and used them in a custard because obviously. I guess you could also mix them in to your dog’s dinner to promote a healthy, shiny coat, but  I think everyone will agree that custard is  obviously the better option. Obviously.

Once your eggs are about the right consistency, make sure your syrup reaches a “soft ball” stage. This means that when dropped in to water, the syrup will form a ball shape that is soft and loses its shape when pressed between your fingers. On a candy thermometer this is around 234 F or 224 F for those at altitude. You can see that the syrup is very very lightly starting to take on color. The bubbles will transition from small and fast to larger and slower.

Once you reach the soft ball stage, turn your eggs back on at a slow mix and pour approximately one quarter of your syrup in to the eggs. You want to pour slowly and toward the edge of the bowl so you disrupt the eggs as little as possible. Working too fast can deflate your eggs and ruin the fluffy quality of the meringue. Once you get the syrup in, turn the eggs to medium speed and put the syrup back on the stove.

Bring the remaining syrup up to a “hard crack” at around 300 F/ 290 F at altitude. When this syrup is dropped in to water it forms in to a firm and brittle sugar chunk.

You can see how the syrup has taken on a much deeper color under the bubbles. The bubbles are also bigger and slower, as compared to the bubbles in the soft ball picture. Once you reach this temperature, turn the stove off and again slowly add your syrup in to your eggs, which should be mixing at a slow speed.

Once all the syrup is in, increase the speed and continue to whip the mixture until it is fluffy and glossy.

Once everything is incorporated and smooth, add in a bit of butter and some vanilla. We also chose to add pistachios, which are traditional, although the recipe called for almonds. Another traditional flavor is rose water. Just be careful with the rose water. It’s strong stuff and can make your confection taste like soap.

BE CAREFUL! The sugar is  extremely hot and will make your mixing bowl similarly really hot. Further, working with sugar can be dangerous regarding burns. The natural instinct is to wipe it off if you get sugar on you. DON’T. It will smear and burn more of you. Get it under very cold water as soon as possible to cool the sugar off for safe removal. Also, wear shoes when you work with sugar. Seriously. Dangerous stuff. Also: delicious stuff.

Once your mixture is incorporated, you’ve mixed in your roughly chopped pistachios (or other ingredients), take the nougat at pour it in to a WELL BUTTERED cookie tray. This stuff is super super sticky so if you don’t grease your tray well…have fun getting that out. Pour in enough nougat to comfortably fill the tray, smooth it in to the corners, and refrigerate to chill and set. It’s important to let it chill for at least four hours. Remember how it was super hot? It will stay hot in the middle for quite a while. Plus it will be much easier to cut when it is cold.

Once cool, place a piece of wax paper over the top of the tray and smooth on to the nougat. Then turn your tray over and work the nougat out. I did this over a cutting board so that I could then directly slice it. I also found that it is helpful to loosen as much of it as you can before flipping it – I took my bash and chop and worked it under all the sides so that I had a lot less to detach when upside down and awkward.

You can actually see my bash and chop lines in the middle. While the sides were free, I had to take the BnC and loosen the middle. This is  significantly easier with a buddy.

Once out, place a second piece of wax paper over the top. Then take a well oiled knife and cut the nougat in to smaller pieces. You could go high class and wrap each piece in a piece of wax paper. We took the heathen approach and just stacked them in to a container. The downside is that because our house was a million degrees, they kind of stuck together on the sides. The good news is that you can pretty easily snap them apart when cold. The better news is that it also means that “one piece” might not be the same as one piece 😀

This recipe actually made two trays worth, so we had quite a lot. The nougat is sticky like a taffy (mind your teeth!) and tastes strongly like honey. However, when you get a bite with the pistachio, it is utterly to die for.

**EDIT: Mother Dear Mother was also a HUGE driver of the variety of my diet.

A Rose By Any Other Name

December 12, 2011

So first, a quick note of business.

What do YOU, dear readers, want to see more of on BurbEx? Refinishing projects? Embroidery and sewing? Food?  What turns you on and keeps you reading. What can we teach you, or ourselves? We’d love to get some feedback.

Until then, we’ll keep plugging away.


Yesterday Katie and I attended a cookie party. Yes, it is just as awesome as it sounds. Everyone brought or made cookies to share. We, of course, had to be different. I went back to my roots and decided to try something I hadn’t done in a long, long time.


The idea of deep-frying can be a little daunting. We’re not super sophisticated at it either, so getting the oil stable at the right temperature took a little finesse.

So down to rosettes. These are basically a fried dough, made on a set of shaped, hot irons. Think a fancy funnel cake. The irons come in several designs, and usually look about like this:

These irons are what the dough is dispersed on, so that it cooks in the shape of the iron. Some of them make cups, some are Christmas themed. These are the original 1970s version, found at Goodwill for $0.69. Yep. Under a buck.

Heat your oil to about 365 degrees. We used our candy thermometer because it goes up to deep fry. It’s important to monitor your oil temperature closely, because it impacts how the dough cooks. If it’s too cool, the dough will absorb the oil and become spongy and laden. Too hot and they will become too crispy and burn. It took about 15 to 20 minutes for our oil to heat up to the right temperature, then a little fiddling around with it to get it stable.

Then…the frying commenced.

First, make your batter:

1 cup flour

2 Tbsp sugar


2 eggs lightly beaten


1 cup milk

Mix the dry ingredients, combine the egg, vanilla, and milk, then combine it all until smooth. Ours was lumpy at first but smoothed out. This recipe makes about 60 rosettes. Prepare a tray or rack with paper towel, and place your batter in a shallow dish for dipping.

When the oil reaches the magic temperature, dip your irons in to the oil for a few seconds – 10 to 20 or so, to allow the irons to heat up. The oil also coats the irons so the batter doesn’t stick once it’s fried. Dip the irons in to the batter, being careful NOT to cover the top of the irons. Getting batter on the top makes it hard to remove the rosettes nicely after cooking.

If your oil is appropriately hot, the rosettes will immediately bubble a lot. Don’t be scared, just let them do their thing. It will take them about a minute or so to cook. Take them out when the dough is nice and chicken-brown.

Give them a moment to drip the oil off, then zoom them over to your landing zone – paper towels on a tray or rack. This will allow the excess oil to drain away. The rosette should pop off easily with a fork. After making several, I found that a couple things happened. First, our oil began to cool off because we placed cold batter in it. Monitor your oil temperature and allow it to come back up to temperature when it cools off. Also, not all of our rosettes turned out. It’s okay! Just try again. We did find that once our irons were nice and screaming hot, they would cook the batter immediately, which would then fall off in to our pie plate.  Let your irons cool off a bit if that’s the case.

As you can see, our rosette is nice and brown. Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and enjoy. They’re best served hot. They’ll hold for about a day, or three days in the fridge, or frozen up to about three months. However, I think they’re best for immediate consumption. It’s a good party trick to impress your friends.

For about a buck and a half, we had a great dessert to share with our friends. Deep frying can be as simple as that!





Update! Upon reflection, I really should have included something about fire safety. I don’t use a lot of things that have only one use, but a fire extinguisher is one of them. When deepfrying, there is the possibility of a grease fire. NEVER put water on a grease fire as it will spread the fire over a large surface. Instead, find something like a pot lid to smother the flames, or use a fire extinguisher. Please be safe.