500 grams creamed pure honey
9 cups "whole" almonds
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
"Host sheets" sold at Italian bakery shops in various sizes (also known as "wafer sheets")
Large baking pan (about 17 inches long by 11 inches wide, 3/4 inch depth)
*Makes 11 torrone pieces 11 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide
o Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and egg whites until stiff peaks are formed (about 6 to 9 minutes).
o While the sugar and egg white mixture is being beaten, melt the "creamed" pure honey in a double boiler (takes about 10 minutes).
o After the honey has fully melted, and the egg and sugar mixture has formed stiff peaks, pour the melted honey into the egg and sugar mixture. Continue beating with the electric mixer for another 5 to 7 minutes.
o Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 300 F degrees (The oven will be used to roast the almonds).
o After the the egg-sugar-and-honey mixture has been fully beaten, place it in a large stainless steel pan and cook on an oven burner over very low heat for about 40 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon (Take turns stirring the mixture with a cooking partner, as it will get very tiring and monotonous!).
o Meanwhile roast the almonds in a 300 F degree oven for about 15 minutes (The time is important as the almonds should be still warm when they are later incorporated into the egg-sugar-and-honey mixture).
o While the egg-sugar-and-honey mixture is being stirred and the almonds are being roasted, fit the parchment paper on the pan that will be used to hold the torrone. This should be done in a precise manner -- role out the parchment paper on the baking pan, letting the parchment paper stick out at least 2 inches, then place the (large) host sheet on top of the parchment paper, cutting it to the size of the pan. **P.S. It is very important that the pan be immediately ready for use as soon as the mixture has finished cooking, because if it is not, the mixture will cool and solidify and then it will be impossible to pour into the pan.
o After the egg-sugar-honey mixture has been stirred for 40 minutes, add the roasted almonds and continue stirring the mixture for another 4 to 5 minutes, making sure that all the almonds are well-coated.
o Pour the egg-sugar-honey-and-almond nougat mixture into the baking pan which has been prepared with parchment paper and "host sheets."
o With a wooden spoon spread out the mixture, so that it is nice and even in the pan.
o When the egg-sugar-honey-and-almond nougat mixture is nice and flat, place a host sheet on top of it. Cut the host sheet to fit the pan (The egg-sugar-and-honey nougat mixture is sandwiched between the hosts).
o Using a large wooden board (bigger than the baking pan) as a weight, place it on top of the egg-white-sugar-and-honey nougat mixture (This is done to further flatten the mixture, as well as to make it as dense as possible).
o Place the baking ban [and the wooden board on it] in the fridge for about 45 minutes (The cooling solidifies the mixture).
o Remove the baking pan from the fridge. Take off the wooden board.
o Remove the hardened egg-sugar-honey-and-almond nougat mixture -- "torrone" -- from the pan by holding onto the parchment paper.
o Place the parchment paper on which the torrone is still on, on a butcher block (or anything on which one can cut on).
o With a very sharp and big knife cut the torrone into strips of 11 inches by 1 1/2 inches.
o Wrap up the torrone pieces in wax paper and keep in the fridge until needed.
o Serve at room temperature, cut into rectangular pieces about 2 inches long by 1 1/2 inches wide.
Apparently, torrone is of Moorish origin. It was brought to Spain around the 15th or 16th century. Even though the almond nougat was popularized by the Spanish, nowadays it is generally associated with Northern Italy (Milan is a leading exporter of this famous almond nougat). Torrone is generally made with honey, sugar, beaten egg whites and almonds. Other types of nuts are also used, hazelnuts being the second most popular after almonds. In Italy, prior to World War II, torrone was associated with the Christmas holidays, and presented as a holiday dessert (including Epiphany). Prior to World War II few (if any) Southern Italians made their own torrone. However, during the Christmas holidays many Southern Italians purchased miniature boxes of torrone and gave them as presents to their children. When Italians immigrated to North America this tradition was continued, as the miniature boxes were readily available in local Italian grocery shops. Even though Southerners did not make "torrone" at home, prior to World War II, they did make honey-glazed or sugar-glazed almond nuggets which are quite similar to the bars of torrone North Americans have come to love. The honey-glazed almond nuggets [See recipes] were a must during the Christmas holidays in Italy. In North America many first generation Italians settled for store-bought "torrone" and stopped making their own sugar-glazed or honey-glazed nuts (A pity as the sugar-glazed or honey-glazed nuts are incredibly delicious!). In any case store-bought torrone continues to be a traditional part of the Christmas holiday meal (regardless of where one's Italian ancestors may have come from). Still, because torrone is commercially-available year round, most people indulge in the delicious confection whenever and wherever they like. Commercially-made torrone is of exceptional good quality, so few households actually are motivated to make their own for the holidays in Italy or abroad. I suppose this is a good thing -- but not necessarily. If one reads the fine print on the torrone packages one will discover a long list of additives (e.g. artificial flavorings). In any case, a growing number of second-generation Italian-Canadians are starting to make their own torrone. Most torrone recipes are labor-intensive and admittedly, so is this one. One person cannot do it by himself or herself. One needs at least two people, if not three. Making torrone requires a certain amount of patience and skill. Not everyone can master it, but those who do are well-rewarded. The taste of home-made torrone can be heavenly. Every Christmas, Pauline Fresco, Sue Alfieri, Gerry Vessia and his wife make a huge batch of torrone and present them as gifts to friends and family members.... The torrone in the picture was made by Gerry Vessia and his wife and given to Mary Melfi who had problems taking a picture of it, as she wanted so much to eat it.... P.S. Wafer cookie sheets are sometimes difficult to find, depending in the area one lives in. Thick cream-colored wafer sheets are often sold in large supermarkets. If one cannot find them there and lives in the Montreal area, there are two stores in Montreal that generally carry them. They include the large Italian grocery shop called MARCHE MILANO at 6862 St. Laurent H2S 3C7, phone 514-273-8558 and the large Arabic grocery store called, Supermarche AKHAVAN 6170 Sherbrooke West H4B 1L8 phone 514-485-4744 at www.akhavanfood.com. Many grocery shops from the Middle East carry wafer sheets. However, the thin white-colored wafer sheets called "host" sheets or "hostie" in Italian which are used to make Italian-style "torrone" as in this recipe are much harder to find. Sometimes Marche Milano has them, but not always. Apparently a Montreal-based company, "Berchicci," sells the "host" sheets on line. The company can be reached at www.berchicci.ca. Personal notes and photo: Mary Melfi.