Chocolate Covered Cherry and Pistachio Nougat

This may not be the best opening line for a Valentine’s Day post, but… sometimes, life is like an onion.

Last year I had surgery. My in-laws sent me a huge get well basket full of fruit. At the center of the fruit was a small box of chocolates. At the center of the box of chocolates was the best chocolate I’ve ever had. It was a cherry and pistachio nougat filled chocolate made by Ohio’s Harry London. My husband offered to order me a box, but a box of your favorite chocolates sitting around the house can be a dangerous thing. I said no, but I allowed myself to think about it from time to time, to visit the site, then let it go… I used to do the same thing with donuts. In the Polk Gulch area of SF there are (or were) a lot of old fashioned donut shops. I have been known to enter but never purchase a donut. I just like to look at them, smell them. And then I go. My friends find it entertaining.

This seemed like an appropriate Valentine’s Day recipe. But we’re cutting it a bit close. It would be a nice treat or gift anytime of the year.

Pistachio and cherry nougat recipes abound. The definitive one online appears to be Bon Appétit’s. I’ve changed a few things. We’re chopping nuts and cherries into smaller pieces to make them more one-bite friendly. The final temperature of the nougat is higher. A lot of the comments said the nougat didn’t set so I cooked it a bit longer and things were fine. I also didn’t use the edible rice paper to sandwich the nougat together. Since we’re dipping these in chocolate, it isn’t necessary. Yes, nougat is sticky, but you can make it work without the paper which–unless you order it online–is one of those ingredients that will drive you crazy because it’s tough to find.

Keep in mind this isn’t a recipe to do on the fly unless you feel like raising your blood pressure. Candy isn’t that hard to make but if you don’t do certain things the right way–which takes time–the end result won’t be worth the effort. They need to look as nice as they taste. The nougat doesn’t take long to make, but tempering chocolate takes a while.

The nougat can be made in advance and coated with chocolate within a couple of days.

Cherry Pistachio Nougat (makes approximately 60-70 pieces)

1 cup (240ml) raw unsalted pistachios
1 1/3 (320ml) cups sugar
1/2 (120ml) cup honey
1 large (US) med (EU) egg white, room temperature
Pinch of kosher salt
3/4 (180ml) cup dried cherries, chopped

Cooking spray or vegetable oil (flavorless such as grapeseed, canola or safflower)

Candy thermometer – for the nougat

Digital instant read thermometer – for tempering the chocolate

Parchment or waxed paper

Rubber spatula

Preheat the oven to 325 F / 165 C degrees. Spread the pistachios on a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes until starting to color. Let cool and chop. We’re making small candies so I chopped the nuts fairly fine.

Oil or spray two sheets of parchment or waxed paper.

You need to whip the egg white and salt until soft peaks form. I found trying to whip one egg white in a stand mixer a little difficult–it didn’t have enough volume to really get going. So I whipped it with a whisk first to give it a little oomph, then let the mixer take over.

Combine sugar, honey and two tablespoons of water in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat until sugar dissolves. Attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan and bring to a boil. Cook until the thermometer registers 260 F (127 C) degrees (hard ball stage).

With the mixer running, stream the hot syrup into the egg white mixture. Beat until the meringue is thick and has cooled slightly, about 10 minutes. It will increase in volume though it may not triple, as the original recipe suggests.

Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cherries and pistachios.

Turn out onto a lightly oiled or sprayed piece of parchment or waxed paper.

Once cooled you can either store the nougat in an airtight container until you’re ready to make the candy, or pull off bite-size pieces and place them on another sheet of oiled paper. It helps to lightly oil your clean hands to keep the nougat from sticking.

I shaped the nougat into hearts for Valentine’s but you can leave them as balls or disks.

At this point you could store the pieces in an airtight container until ready to use.

To temper the chocolate:

If you don’t temper the chocolate, but simply melt it and dip, your candy won’t set as well and the coating will likely have a dull finish instead of the bright shiny firm finish you see in the photos. You are also likely to get a bloom of cocoa butter on the surface, which will give your chocolates an unattractive dusty look.

1 lb. (454g) plus 6 oz. (170g) of dark chocolate (I think dark chocolate works best with the flavors of this recipe), chopped but keep the two portions separate

Digital instant read thermometer

Rubber spatula

Waxed paper lined baking sheet

Chop the 1 lb. of chocolate and put it in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water.

Gently stir the chocolate, with the spatula, as it melts. When the chocolate reaches 115 F (46 C) degrees, remove the bowl from the water, wipe the bottom and add the 6 oz. (170g) of chocolate. Continue to gently stir the chocolate.

Keep the water in the pan and on the burner, but turn the heat off.

The chocolate’s temperature will start to come down. When it gets just below 84 F (29 C)degrees, remove any remaining chunks of unmelted chocolate. They can be cooled and used for something else.

Put the bowl back in the warm water and continue to stir. When the chocolate reaches 88-89 F (31-32 C)degrees, remove the bowl. At this point the chocolate is tempered and you’re ready to dip. If it starts to solidify, you can dip the bowl into the water to loosen it up. As long as the chocolate doesn’t exceed 91 F (33 C) degrees you can leave it in the water.

One at a time, add the pieces of nougat to the melted chocolate.

Using a fork, gently turn them over to coat on all sides, then transfer to a waxed paper lined baking sheet to cool.

The candies should keep for about a week stored in an airtight container.

If you are giving these as gifts, try to handle the chocolates as little as possible so you don’t dull the surface with fingerprints.

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