Thursday, 23 June 2011

Torrone by Scaldaferro. The best nougat I have ever tasted.

Available in Selfridges and Harrods

One of my all time favourite sweets has to be nougat and yesterday I found the ultimate in the form of Torrone. the Venitian, Itailan version. I have added some information from their website below, which explains why this is truly the origional and best. Brittle in texture and the hue of soft gold and with the strong taste of honey simply divine. Truly wonderful.

The modern “torrone”, according to a noted tradition, had its origin from a sweet served on October 25, 1441 at the banquet held after the wedding celebrated in Cremona, between Francesco Sforza and Bianca Maria Visconti.

This sweet consisted of a composite of almonds, honey and whipped egg whites, modelled in such a way to reproduce the form of the bell tower of the Cremona cathedral, the noted Torrazzo (during that period called Torrione), from which, according to some, it seemed to have derived its name.

The basic ingredients of the nougat, almonds and honey, abundantly available in the entire basin of the Mediterrean, have been utilized since remote times to create sweets that we may consider the ancestors of the modern nougat, like the Roman cupedia and the Arabic turun from which, through a slow evolution, was derived the name and the structure of our nougat.

The exact etymology of the term Torrone (nougat) is not known.

It is probable that it is a direct derivation of the latin torréo, rrés, rrùi, stùm, which signifies roast, grill, toast, since the first and indispensible ingredient of the nougat, is the toasted hazelnut or almond.
The term appears in the De Bello Gallico of Julius Cesar, which recounted the custom of the Gauls of cooking in copper pots with honey and hazelnuts.
Even today, in the south of France (or the original Gallia), is found a flowering production of nougat (that of Montelimar is famous) which utilizes strongly aromatic honey as in that of lavender.

If we analyze the ingredients of the nougat, we realize that it is a confectionery produced with quality materials capable of being conserved a long time, adapted to be carried by the Roman Legion and by Arab travellers, without taking into account that it is particularly recommended for the warm climates – at least better than other sweets – that characterised the summer along the Mediterrean coast as well as the plains of the Po Valley.
In the beginning, the diffusion of the nougat followed many roads.
In the North, the reference point is certainly Cremona.
Cremona from antiquity was an important fluvial port of call, an industrial and commercial city, a military centre: it was certainly not possible to ignore the existence of these sweets imported from faraway countries, or even before, utilized by the legionnaires as a complement to their rations.
The explicit signs of consumption (and indirectly, of the production) of nougat were numerous from the XVI° century.
There is information that since 1543, the municipality of Cremona acquired nougat through a spice dealer of the Incoronata to be presented to the authorities - particularly those of Milan – to which in continuation, to negotiate relevant affairs for the city, were sent messengers, orators and representatives.

The relationship with Milan and even before with China and
the Orient, thanks to the voyages of great explorers, made Venice a centre for the vast diffusion of the nougat.
Venice imported from the Orient much spices and nuts like walnuts, almonds, and especially sugar, prime basic materials for the production of sweets.
The manufacture of sugar became so important that from the 1200’s the corporation of the “spezieri da grosso” (spice sellers) was created, in which participated also sugar refiners, confetti makers, druggists, manufacturers of almond oil, and pastry makers of “mandorlato” (nougat).
Centres of production of nougat were Venice and its province and the zone of Cologna Veneta, which recognized the influence and the domination of Venice. The historian, Samuele Romanin, in his "Documented History of Venice" noted: "These delicacies, then, were already known and appreciated in far-off times, when the Venetian Republic reigned undisputed in great part of the Venetian territory." And in that time Cologna had very close ties with Venice, demonstrating the fact that for much time it was an aggregate part of the ‘Sestier del Dorsoduro' ( a zone of Venice), in the heart of the lagoon city.
In the South
The nougat was diffused originally in Sicily, and also in Calabria and in Sardegna.
It remains to be seen if in Sicily it was brought directly by the Muslims of Africa in 827 A.D., when they arrived to support the Sicilian commander Eufemio against the Byzantines of Emperor Constantine, or if it arrived with the Spanish of the kingdom of Aragon in the 1200’s, who were also in Sardegna in the 1300’s and for a while in all of Southern Italy in the 1400’s.
It was probably thanks to them that the nougat became diffused in the south.

The nougat today is diffused in all of the Italian peninsula, and is considered the true national sweet.
The main varieties of nougat are those friable and those soft: the difference between the two is due to diverse factors.
First of all, the different length of cooking of the mixture: in the friable nougat the cooking is usually prolonged, up to (in some typical products) 10 hours. Also important is the percentage of nuts and the affinity between the honey and the sugar (among which is saccharine, glucose syrup, invert sugar syrup).
The soft nougat, instead, has a cooking time that normally does not go over 3 hours; this permits it to be a moister mixture; this factor combined with the higher percentage of glucose produce softer dough.
More modern variations include the classic nougat covered with chocolate or with chocolate inside the mixture (typical of the Abruzzese).
As ingredients, depending on the region, are amalgamated into the mixture almonds, hazelnuts, peanuts, dried figs, candied fruits, sesame seeds, and orange or lemon zest.

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