Torrone, otherwise known as nougat, is a concoction made from honey, well-whipped egg whites, vanilla, and walnuts or almonds; it’s an ancient sweet and it’s made throughout Italy, and Sicily’s is especially renowned. Cubbaita is an older version developed by the Arabs who lived in Sicily. Cubbaita more resembles a nut crunch than it does what most people associate with the word torrone. But it is a first step in the direction of torrone. Giggiulena (ju-ju-lena) is what my family and other Sicilians call this nutty treat and is easy to make with a few simple ingredients. If you can’t find bulk sesame seeds, any bakery will sell them to you. I went to the bakery at my Shop Rite and they sold me as much as I needed.
My mother remembers eating these candies when she was a little girl. Her aunt would make them for the holidays and give them out to the children. When I was a child I got these candies as well. I remember my grandmother putting these candies out in a candy dish when company came over. They were always a welcomed treat.
During street festivals in Sicily, the vendors make these candies right outside on the streets, with huge copper kettles, caramelizing the sugar and honey and making these sesame candies along with almond brittle and torrone. These candies were so hard they used to break them apart with hammers and axes. To save your teeth from destruction it pays to warm them in your mouth for a while before you start chewing.
While the candy is still soft, it’s worth cutting them into really small pieces so you avoid having to bite off a piece from a larger chunk. That way you can just pop one in your mouth and soften it up. They are very delicious!
- 1 pound 2 ounces honey
- 8 ounces sugar
- 1 pound sesame seeds
- 8 ounces blanched, peeled, minced almonds
- Orange or lemon zest
Grease with oil a shallow pan or a piece of marble to pour the cooked confection.
In a 3 quart sauce pan mix all ingredients.
Cook over a medium flame, stirring continuously between 5 to 10 minutes until sugar caramelizes (at 250 to 275 degrees, if you have a candy thermometer) and mixture becomes lightly golden. Don’t burn the mixture, keep an eye one it.
Pour mixture in the greased pan or on the marble counter and with the help of a greased spatula level the nougat and shape it into a uniform block, about 1/2 inch thick. Before it gets cold cut into pieces 1×2 inches.
Wrap and seal each piece in wax paper and the giggiulena will keep if properly stored in an airtight container.