I never had a sister. I had Josephine. My cousin and I grew up in the same house. Her mother and my mother were sisters. The day we stopped living together, when Jo went away to college in Vermont, I cried. I never told her this.
Years later, when Jo got married in Italy, I wasn't there. She didn't attend my wedding either. It's not what you think. We didn't have a falling out. Nobody was invited to either of our weddings because nobody knew that they were taking place. What are the odds? While Jo was eloping in a palazzo in Florence, I was on a cliff overlooking the Penobscot Bay in Maine and doing the same thing. I thought about Jo that day. I wonder if she ever thought about me.
Jo and I only see each other three or four times a year these days, but I will always look upon her as a sister. She's an extraordinarily gifted baker and confectioner, you know. When I think of our family holidays I think about Jo's desserts and other treats. The gatherings just wouldn't be the same without them.
I came home to a package the other day, sent Priority Mail. Inside the box was a beautifully wrapped bar of Jo's homemade torrone. I love Jo's torrone. There was no note inside the package; it didn't need one. There was a crisp white sheet of paper with a neatly typed recipe for the confection. I called Jo to thank her, tell how how much I appreciated her gift, then asked if she would mind if I shared it with all of you. She said that that would be okay.
Makes four 8" x 2" x 1" bars
1 ½ cups clover or other mild honey
2 cups sugar
3 large egg whites
½ cup confectioners sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons orange flower water
¾ teaspoon pure almond extract
2 ½ cups roasted pistachios, almonds or a mix of both
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Edible rice paper
Line the bottom and sides of an 8- or 9-inch baking pan with the edible rice paper, trimming to fit.
To make the candy
Heat honey and sugar in a 5-quart heavy pot over low heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Raise the heat a bit and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally until it reaches 315 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Be careful that the syrup doe not burn.
When the syrup reaches 300 degrees F beat the egg whites and salt with a heavy-duty stand mixer until soft peaks form. Add the confectioners sugar and beat until stiff peaks form.
When the syrup reaches 315 degrees F, remove from heat and stir until bubbles dissipate and temperature drops back to 300 degrees F.
With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the syrup into the egg whites in a thin stream. The mixture will rise and then fall. Continue beating the mixture until thick. Add the orange flower water and almond extract and beat one minute. Add nuts.
Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and cover with another sheet of edible rice paper that has been trimmed to fit. Let stand at room temperature at least 8 hours.
Run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and invert candy onto a cutting board. Leave the edible paper on and cut the torrone to desired size.
Wrap in parchment