Torrone, a traditional Christmas treat served around the world (particularly in Spain and Italy), is a close cousin of nougat. Nougat can be fussy and sticky, but delicious. My punched-up torrone, however, is the easiest candy you’ll ever make; in fact, it has quite a lot in common with a traditional buttery American fudge. There’s no tricky temperature to hit, and no fussy hard-or soft-ball stages.
White sugar is melted out in a bit of water, until it becomes a viscous, simmering syrup, while softened butter and cocoa powder are beaten together until fluffy and thick. In goes a whole egg and a yolk, which gives the torrone its signature bounce and chew, and then the hot sugar syrup is carefully tipped into your mixer bowl. (The boiling syrup cooks the raw egg as they are paddled together.)
Like building a giant salad or adding accessories to a cute outfit, the fun really begins once you start throwing in the mix-ins: Buttery cookies are gently folded into the mixture, where they stay crisp and add richness. (For extra credit, consider making your own tender sablés, but store bought brands like St. Michel, Tate’s, or Walker’s work here, too). Fat chunks of mint-flavored chocolate get stirred in, too. (Here I’ll profess a love of Green & Blacks dark mint chocolate.)
If you’re not fond of pepperminty chocolates, a few drops of almond extract, some marzipan-studded chocolate, and/or some torn dried apricot is another spectacular variation. For a more classic Italian nougat profile, substitute candied almonds, pistachios, and some diced candied citrus peel. It all works—piles of sweet treats bound together by chewy, not-too-sweet fudge.
The torrone chills for a few hours, or overnight, where the flavors mingle and marry. I love spreading the torrone into a layer about one knuckle high, so that I can slice them into perfect die-like cubes. The cube shape is sharp and clean; the beautiful terrazzo texture it reveals once you slice into it is chic and irresistible. Is there a sturdier, more compact shape for nesting into a gift box and shipping to someone you love? Try it and see. —Natasha Pickowicz
Test Kitchen Notes
These torrone are part of Recipes to Give & Share, a collection of perfectly packable holiday treats that we're sending to our loved ones this year. —The Editors
3 hours 15 minutes
1 quarter-sheet pan of torrone
(168g) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups
(150g) unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups
mint chocolates, such as Andes Mints (you can also use mint-chocolate chunks, or a bar cut roughly)
(200g) granulated sugar
large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
pure vanilla extract
to 2 cups butter cookies (plus more or less as you prefer), crumbled
Beat butter and cocoa powder together in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment until smooth and creamy. Add egg and yolk in two additions, scraping to combine. Beat well until smooth, glossy, and thick.
In a small pot, add just enough water to the white sugar to cover (about 1/4 cup should do it). Melt it out until it just comes up to a simmer, then remove the syrup from heat.
With the mixer on, stream in hot sugar syrup very gradually to cocoa paste. (The heat of the sugar syrup will “cook” the raw egg).
Season with salt and vanilla extract.
Turn mixture out into a wide bowl and gently fold in cookie shards and chocolate chunks. Turn mixture out into a sheet tray lined with plastic wrap and lightly sprayed with cooking spray and smooth out to an even surface. Let chill completely until firm.
Cut into desired shapes—cubes, slabs, or rounds with a cookie cutter.