Friday, June 7, 2019

Cherry and Pistachio Nougat - #FFFriday!

For one of our operas this season (La Boheme!) we have a scene set in 1830-40s with a lot of vendors.  One very delightful item we needed to make was some nougat!  Our Instagram followers have had a preview of this one, as I've been sharing some process shots over there.  

Materials: Crayola Model Magic, Acrylic paint, iridescent gift wrap, transparent tape, Joe's Sticky Stuff, Stock silver platter
Tools: Knife, ruler, Olfa blade, scissors

I haven't written a Materials Monday post about Crayola Model Magic yet, but I did write some about it in the Marzipan Hedgehogs post, and it really is one of my favorite fake food materials. And it is the perfect texture for nougat! Originally I was going to add some plastic orchid buds (you can see them in the background of the photo below) to be my pistachios, the color and shape were perfect.  However it was pointed out that if all of the mix-ins were the same density (or material) that cutting would be immensely easier.  
A warning on this one: this project took a LOT of patience due to dry times.  Even working  in a literal desert, it still took daaaays.  Nearly 2 weeks passed between first sculpting and final wrapping.  Model Magic is air dry only, and I've not attempted drying it in any other manner. I did contemplate trying a toaster oven (non-food use only, of course), but I didn't want anything to burn...

Day 1: I started with white Model Magic and some acrylic paint for almonds.  I rolled them into balls and generic almond shapes.

I then repeated the process for pistachios.  I wasn't terribly concerned about how they were going to look, as they were going to get mixed into the nougat, then cut. 

I then let them dry out in the sun for a few hours.  They got a nice 'skin' on them, and to help them along (and make them easier to mix), I cut them in half.

Dry little nut babies! Dryyyyyy!

Next, I made some dried cherries.  To get enough color, again starting with white Model Magic, I had to add A LOT of paint.  From experience, I knew this was going to make it quite sticky, but I only had the white MM to use.  If I did it again, I would have started with a base red so I wouldn't have to add so much paint.  Once I had the color I wanted, I rolled the MM into snakes and picked off odd sizes to look like cut cherries.  Like the nuts, I wasn't super concerned about how they looked pre-mix.

After making the little cherry chunks, I set the cherries and nuts out to dry in the sun yet again.  I left them out for the rest of the day and worked on other projects.  

Please enjoy our desert setting, sand and rocks and a retaining wall.

Day 2: I set out to make the nougat out of even more Model Magic!

I got a bit too excited about my off-white nougat base, and added too much paint.  I added more MM, which worked out well in the end, even though the color was definitely darker than I had hoped, and very close to the almond color. 

I will fully admit that I've been watching a lot of the Great British Baking Show, and I was certainly treating this like a bread dough.  There was a lot of kneading involved (hence the slap-dash waxed paper taped to my table).  I flattened it out to add my nuts and cherries in!

And then so much mixing commenced!

I ended up cutting some of the pistachios into quarters for better mixing.  Model Magic is easy to work with, but mixing a beast this big was very tiring...  

I mixed nearly all of my nuts and cherries into the mass, but it was pretty arbitrary.  I then smushed it all into a baking pan I found in stock!

So nougatyyy

In hindsight, I probably should have put some sort of release agent on the pan, but it was non-stick and I thought it would be fine.  And now, the waiting began...  I knew it was going to take a while for the mass to dry, so I set it outside to take advantage of the dry air and sun. However, I was leaving a real baking pan with an irresistibly pokeable material in it, out in a path where people would be walking past.  And after 9 years of working here, I know how my curious co-workers would react.  After an entire day of sitting outside, the nougat was still pretty soft.  I was hoping that by the next day, it would be pretty dry!  

Day 3: My hopes were dashed.  I let it sit in its pan for another day, to let it firm up.  

Day 4:  By the end of the day, the nougat was somewhat dry, and I felt confident enough to peel it out of the pan.  And let me tell you, it was still quite wet and squishy on the underside.  Fortunately it was Saturday, so I was able to let it sit out for an entire day without me or anyone else wanting to poke or cut it open.

Day 5:  A day of rest for me and the nougat.  

Day 6:  Still not dry.  


I got a sharp-ish knife that we have for foam carving, and marked some generic cut lines.  Thanks to my co-worker Sara, we captured the first cut!  


This also unofficially launches the F-n-B youtube channel, I guess.  I'm v glad my nails aren't filthy, but it's also very weird to see your hands from a different angle than from your body... I digress.  

If you don't want to watch the vid, the cuts were pretty successful!  After cutting them into squares, I let them dry yet another day.  I was very glad that I opted to make everything from Model Magic, as cutting tiny plastic chunks probably would have made this process much more difficult, and it's possible the MM wouldn't have stuck to the plastic and the nuts would have fallen out.  

Day 8: Stacks! The red from the cherries did streak a bit, and the almonds are basically invisible, but I'm pretty pleased with how they turned out!

I found the silver tray in stock, and ended up making a white foam tower on the inside to hold up the pyramid and get the most out of the nougat chunks.  I ended up trimming several of the edge pieces to get a square cut.  And, because the scene they're going to be in is very shiny and sparkly, I wrapped the days-dried (we're talking Day 12 at this point), in iridescent cellophane because it's FESTIVE.  

In the days since, the tray has been cut, but the nougat remains (so far).  I hope you've enjoyed this very long tutorial.  It's still not as time consuming as actually making it, but it looks real enough to eat, I think!  (Note: Our shopper found some real nougat at Trader Joe's and bought some for the shop.  It was not what I was expecting, but I also didn't hate it.  The best way I could describe it is wet marshmallow, but also tasty?  I'd eat it again.)

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