Julie had her birthday recently and for once I was at home, as a loving, caring partner I was anxious that she should have an enjoyable day. A visit to Tours for lunch at the Deuvaliere was on the cards and a bit of leisurely shopping seemed to be in order, but what about a Birthday cake?
There’s only the three of us at home at the moment so nothing to large, Julie enjoys a bit of chocolate and sweetness but is not one for big chunks of rich chocolatey cake, and we would have had lunch in Tours so something not to rich or large in general was definitely the order of the day. What to bake…. then enlightenment, a Nougat de Tours a local confection much prized in the region.
Nougat de Tours is a mainstay of any bakers in the area that have any pretensions of quality, displaying beautiful, expensive understated tarts.
Nougat de Tours is a very different Nougat from anywhere else in France, being a cake/tart rather than a sweet. The name comes from the roman word nucatum (from nux, walnut), Tours nougat is in part almond-based mixture, with the sugar and egg whites. The recipe used today was written in the mid-nineteenth century but after a brief flurry at the time was rarely cooked commercially until a revival or rediscovery of the recipe in the 1970′s. It is likely that a form of the tart has been baked from medival times as nut, sugar – macaroon type mixtures are known to have been popular.
As I mentioned, the dish is common in good quality bakers in the area, and its future is assured by the work and interest of ‘La confrérie gourmande du Nougat de Tours’. A fine resplendent body of individuals who nobly undertake to promote the Nougat and to recognise the quality of production. As you can see from the photographs this is a serious business which requires specialised clothing, 40 dignitaries and 500 knights and officers of the order, you don’t want to go into battle understrength. They host competitions, tastings and some pretty decent dinners, keeping themselves in the frontline of culinary endeavour.
It is easy to take the mickey but this kind of thing is very common in France and is taken relatively seriously. It has got to better than simply lying down and accepting the homogeneous poor quality pap that Tesco’s, Walmart et.al. gleefully serve up to a near compliant population. Anyway the kit looks like fun.
So how do you make it? The recipe is fairly easy, essentially a sweet pastry base with jam, candied fruit and topped with a macaronade.This recipe is from the Confrerie website so is fairly authoritative!
Ingredients for 6 people
- 70 g butter
- 1 egg
- 140 g flour
- 35 g icing sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 50 g apricot jam
- 150 g candied peel
- 80 g ground almonds
- 80 g caster sugar
- 100 g egg whites
- A bit of icing sugar to finish
A word about sugar, the french recipe calls for ‘semoule’ sugar which is a specialist bakers sugar somewhere between icing sugar and caster sugar, caster sugar is not a bad match but I think granulated sugar is too coarse and icing sugar is too fine.
Add all the ingredients to a food processor and blitz briefly to form a smooth dough, if necessary add a teaspoon or so of very cold water to help a dough form. Take care not to over process the mixture as it will create a pastry like plasterboard. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm and pop it into the fridge to relax for at least 30 minutes (an hour is best).
After resting in the fridge roll out the pastry and line a buttered and floured 18 cm pastry dish. Spread the apricot jam over the pastry and sprinkle on the candied peel.
Beat the egg whites until you have stiff peaks then gently fold in the previously combined ground almonds and caster sugar. Add the macaronade to the pastry dish. Finish the dish by sieving the icing sugar on top of the mixture.
That’s it, quite easy really just a bit of patience, it looks good and eats very well, tasty but not to sweet or filling. Julie really enjoyed it (as did I) and that was the point of the exercise. I recommend you give it ago.