One of the many special treats available at Christmas time here is the turrón (torró in Catalan), the Spanish version of nougat. There are several different types available, which differ depending on where they’re made, and many of them have a celebrated past. The first documented appearance of the sweet in Agramunt (see recipe), a Catalan town in the province of Lleida, is from 1741 in letters written by noblemen of the area that mention it.
The success of torró relies on the quality of the main ingredients used. During the Civil War, a lot of Spanish turroneros lost the skills needed for making it due to the difficulty of obtaining these key ingredients but thankfully a few families persevered and are likely to still be making the confectionery today.
- 100g hazelnuts
- 220g almonds
- 1.5 cups of honey
- 2 egg whites, beaten until stiff
- edible rice paper
First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit (175 degrees Celsius). Put a single layer of hazelnuts on a baking tray and put them in the oven to roast. Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the skins are blistered. Remove and place onto one half of a double piece of kitchen towel. Cover the nuts with the other half and let them sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Pick the towel up like a little sack and rub the nuts inside together vigorously until the skins mostly rub off.
Now blanch the almonds: place in a shallow bowl and pour enough boiling water over the nuts to just cover them. Let them sit for no more than one minute. Drain, rinse under cold water, then drain again. Pat dry and slip the skins off. The nuts have to be kept warm so, while still hot from the roasting and blanching, store them under tin foil.
Put the honey into a saucepan and heat over a medium heat, stir and remove from the heat when it starts to boil. Continue to stir the liquid until it thins to a syrup-like consistency. Return the honey to the heat and add the beaten egg whites. Keep cooking until the mixture turns into a toffee-like, hard-ball texture. Add the warm nuts and stir. Now line a baking tray with rice paper. Spread the mixture evenly onto the layer of paper and then cover with a second sheet, weighing it all down with a baking tray. Leave to cool then cut into slices.