Growing up in an Italian family, torrone was as much a part of our nomenclature as traditional snacks like pretzels or potato chips. My mom once told me that growing up, my grandfather (who had come over from Italy when he was 18) always made sure there were two things in the pantry – boxes of torrone and a big bottle of Brioschi. A true Italian, indeed! I was always smitten with the beautiful little boxes that the individual candies came in – they were colorful and had some some of the most unique designs. Inside are little rectangular candies, made of a sweet nougat and studded with nuts. The most traditional version is made with almonds, but I have also seen versions with pistachios, and also simply flavored with lemon, vanilla bean or orange.
While I’ve enjoyed torrone occasionally since I was a child, I’ve really grown to like and appreciate it over the last few years. Admittedly, it was never something that I had ever thought to make myself until I was flipping through the new DIY Cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen and opened a page to homemade almond torrone. I was blown away not only to find it there in the book, but to discover just how easy it is to make! There are a couple of specialty-type items that you need for the recipe, like edible wafer paper and blanched almonds, which my local grocery stores don’t carry, so I ordered online (see notes below recipe for links). I should note that regular almonds would work, but I wanted to make this as authentic as possible. Once you have the wafer paper and blanched almonds, the rest is smooth sailing.
I was so excited to take my first bite of the torrone, and even more thrilled when I realized that it tasted just like authentic torrone! This is definitely something that I’ll be making from scratch from now on; there’s no reason not to, and it adds an extra-special touch for holidays. I’m excited for my Chief Culinary Consultant’s dad to get into town on Friday for Christmas – he loves torrone, so there’s a big container with his name on it!
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray an 8-inch square baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Line the bottom and sides of the pan with edible wafer paper, cutting pieces as needed to get them to fit; set aside.
Place the egg whites and cream of tartar in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment; set aside.
Place the honey in a medium saucepan. Pour the sugar and salt into the center of the pan. Cook the mixture over medium heat, without stirring, until the honey starts to boil around the edges of the pan, about 5 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, gently swirling the pan, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is dark amber in color and reaches 320 degrees F on a thermometer, anywhere from about 8 to 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and let the bubbles subside, about 30 seconds.
Meanwhile, when the honey mixture is at about 270 degrees F, turn the mixer to medium-low and begin whipping the egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium-high and whip until soft peaks form, about 2 to 3 more minutes.
Reduce the speed to low and carefully add the hot honey mixture, trying to avoid the sides of the bowl and the whisk as much as possible, and mix until incorporated. Increase the speed to medium and whip, scraping down the sides of the bowl twice, until the mixture is pale and very thick and stiff, about 10 to 12 minutes.
While the candy mixture is whipping, spread the almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and heat until warm and just barely fragrant, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and keep the almonds on the baking sheet to keep warm.
Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the warm almonds and vanilla to the candy mixture. Working quickly, scrape the candy evenly into the prepared pan using a rubber spatula that has been sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Cover the top surface of the candy with a single piece of edible wafer paper, trimmed to fit the pan. Place parchment paper on top and press very firmly with another 8-inch square baking pan to compact the candy and remove air bubbles. Let the pan cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Refrigerate until very firm, about 2 hours.
Discard the parchment. Use a paring knife to trim any excess pieces of edible wafer paper from the edges, then turn the candy out onto a cutting board. Cut the torrone into pieces about 1x2-inches. The torrone can be stored at room temperature or refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks, using parchment to line the container and separate layers.
Note: Below are the links to the specialty items I purchased for the torrone: