Thursday, March 27, 2014

Daring Bakers' Challenge Revealed: Homemade Nougat

This month's baking challenge was really exciting for me ... and then incredibly nerve-wracking. This month's challenge was to make homemade nougat. Cool!!!

As I read through the challenge's overview and instructions, my sense of panic began to set in and then grow at an immeasurable rate. Was it because of the complexity of the challenge? Nope ... not even close. Was it the time required to complete the nougat? Nah! It was this statement in the overview that sent my pulse racing: "Nougat is best made on a cool, dry day." Cool, we have that in spades. Dry? That's a completely other matter. Spring in Seattle is typically anything but dry. I decided to see how March's weather played out ... naturally, this month was one of our wettest Marches on record. I decided to bite the proverbial bullet yesterday and just take my chances with the weather and made my nougat.

I didn't want to just "make nougat." I wanted to made a complete candy, so I researched homemade Snickers recipes. I mean, come on! Who doesn't like Snickers? (Peanut allergy sufferers aside, of course.)

I followed the nougat recipe and directions from this Snickers knock-off recipe, but didn't use that recipe's caramel or chocolate aspects. I already had homemade caramel in the fridge (doesn't everyone???), so decided to use that for the bars. I also went really easy and nuked some chocolates chips in the microwave instead of tempering chocolate, as was recommended in the recipe. Again, I was up against a deadline and was looking to just get the project done on time. The "Snickers" recipe called for crunchy peanut butter, but we aren't a crunchy peanut butter family, so I just used creamy peanut butter and sprinkled some roasted peanuts on top of the caramel layer. Done and done!

The nougat didn't come together in the time frame the recipe predicted, which made me nervous that the whole thing would fail, but I stayed the course and kept moving forward. I downsized from the recommended 9x13 pan to a 9x9 pan, once I saw the smaller-than-expected nougat volume. I looked in the bowl and realized there was no way that amount would cover the bottom of the pan, so adjusted accordingly and am glad I did. As the nougat did it's thing, I stuck the mason jar of caramel sauce in a pan of water and slowly warmed it on the stove.

Once the nougat was done, I squished it into my parchment paper-lined 9x9 pan and then poured the caramel on top... followed by the peanuts. I popped the pan into the fridge for a bit so the caramel could set up a bit. While it cooled, I microwaved a few handfuls of chocolate chips with a blob of Crisco. Once the chocolate was smooth, I poured it on top of the other layers and popped it back in the fridge to cool completely.

I had NO idea if the recipe was going to work, but realized it was a successful when my guinnea pig (aka Eric) proclaimed that it was a winner and then proceeded to cut himself another helping. After witnessing Eric's response to the treat, I tried a piece, too. He was right. It did turn out well!! Not bad for a rainy weather experiment, if you ask me!

The March 2014 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Rebecca of BakeNQuilt. She challenged us to learn to make a classic nougat and to make it our own with our choice of flavors and add-ins.

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