“A picture is worth a thousand words.”
These words could not be any more true. I was showing my mom a picture of torrone, an Italian confection made from honey, sugar, egg whites, and nuts (usually toasted almonds). They can either be hard and brittle or soft and chewy. These treats can be found in various forms around the world. I made torrone in pastry school to explore the various stages of cooking sugar. If you have a candy thermometer, or are familiar with one, you know what I’m talking about. Torrone is made by cooking sugar to the soft crack stage (284º F).
Prior to making torrone, I had never heard of it or had it before. So it came as quite a surprise when my mom’s eyes lit up and she got excited when I showed her the picture. Apparently, it was a big thing in Africa. She told me that growing up in Tanzania, where torrone is called nougat, they were sold as Turkish delights in bakeries. They were very expensive and thus considered quite a treat. A family friend in South Africa would search everywhere for these candies.
Now that I know how to make them, she’s of course asked me to make her more, but I understand why they are expensive. I was talking to her about that. The staples of baking—butter, sugar, eggs—are expensive ingredients, even if you buy them in bulk. Recently I had a conversation with my students about this. We were talking about lamination. Croissants are a prime example of that technique. You can buy one for a cheap price, however, if you go to a nice French bakery and look at the price, you may balk at it. Good croissants are pricey both because of the ingredients that are used and the labor (lamination isn’t a quick and easy process).