Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Myrtle Torrone

myrtle torrone 2
Myrtle Torrone

I love a coincidence, don’t you?  Just last week Hank Shaw put a piece up on his excellent blog, Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.  ‘Making Mirto, A Sardinian Liqueur'  intrigued me.  I’m always interested to hear about Sardinian food (especially since we had a Sardinian exchange student live with us for a year), and of course, drink. 

But First, A Digression

Shaw points out that the myrtle used to make Mirto is Myrtus Communis (true myrtle), not Lagerstroemia (Crape Myrtle).  It’s also not Umbellularia californica, the plant Oregonians call Oregon MyrtleMaybe you, too, have driven down the Oregon Coast a few times, and noted the myrtlewood gift shops, with piles of burls in their parking lots?   Once you cross the border into California,  Oregon Myrtle is known as California Bay Laurel. 

So let’s get this straight. Oregon Myrtle, AKA California Bay Laurel, is neither a true myrtle nor a true Bay Laurel (Laurus nobilis).  In other words, don’t try to use its fruit to make Mirto.  Before I stop side tracking, let me just add that this evergreen tree is in the same family as the avocado.  Which also wouldn’t make a true Mirto.

myrtle torrone 1

The Coincidence

Okay, I’m back.  The coincidence?  Just a week after reading Shaw’s post, I went to dinner at our friends’ house.  They had just returned from Slow Food’s Salone del Gusto and Terra Madre in Torino.  My consolation prize for not going (one day, one day) was a rosy block of Torrone al Mirto (myrtle torrone) from Torrone Pili Tonara in Sardinia. 

myrtle torrone label 1

Torrone, a nougat candy, is made from honey, sometimes sugar, nuts, and egg whites.  My myrtle torrone is sweetened purely with honey (no sugar).  The block of candy is generously filled with almonds; two lines of whole almonds march across the top.  Myrtle colors the candy pink and adds a subtle herbal note without detracting from the flavor of the honey and almonds.  Which is, after all, why I love torrone.

myrtle torrone 4

A quick googling told me they also make chestnut torrone, which I already love, without ever tasting.  And, intriguingly, Torrone al CorbezzoloIf you translate the page, it will tell you it’s strawberry nougat.  But if you do your own research, you’ll learn corbezzolo is actually Arbutus Unedo, AKA the Strawberry Tree.  There certainly seems to be a lot of confusion about plants and their names.

myrtle torrone 5

Some torrones are brittle.  Delicious, but scary to eat.  With each bite I wonder if it could be the last for some of my teeth.  Others (and my myrtle torrone is one) are soft.  With these I bite down without fear.  It’s the chewing that scares me—I worry that fillings could be pulled out.  But I’m willing to take the risk. 


Janis said...

Two things...no, three things:

1. I want to go to Terra Madre more than ANYTHING.
2. Love Hank Shaw (just made his corned venison)
3. You made me drool on my keyboard.

kairu said...

Yum! I love Torrone, but my favorite is a Taiwanese almond nougat that my parents always bring when they visit. It is my mission to get everyone I know completely addicted to it. So far I am succeeding.

Natalie said...

I love Torrone, it is one of those special treats you can find in some parts of Europe - i prefer a softer one though rather than the really brittle one, as it does tend to get a bit painful!

Giovanna said...

Janis--me too. Some day I'll go. I swear.

Kairu--can you tell me what the Taiwanese nougat is called? My husband is often in Taiwan on business, and he's never brought back anything so tempting as almond nougat (he does bring back durian candy from Asia often, which is NOT a favorite of mine). What else should I be asking him to bring?

kairu said...

The nougat is made by a company called Sugar & Spice (their shop in Taipei is at 158, Dun Hua S Road, Sec 1, (02) 2752-2188). They have a patisserie with beautiful jewel-like cakes, which are fine, but the real treat is their milk-and-almond nougat. It comes in mocha flavor, too, but original flavor is best.

Another thing is pineapple cake, which are buttery cookie-cakes encasing a block of pineapple jam (like a Fig Newton, but better. WAY better). But, don't be seduced by the airport gift shop ones. The best pineapple cakes are from Sunny Hills, but their website is in Chinese and I can't figure it out. My parents have them delivered, but apparently they now have a shop in Taipei. Will investigate further.

Giovanna said...

Thanks Kairu! I told Pavel this, and he said he'd wanted to go to Sugar and Spice on his last trip (just a couple of weeks ago). I'm a little suspicious--if he wanted to go, why the heck didn't he?

Either way, I've put in my order--and I'd love the Sunny Hills info, because I am a huge fan of pineapple as well as Fig Newtons.

Now I'm almost hoping Pavel will have another trip very soon--I figure he can get the original as well as the mocha flavor.

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