Nougat

Nougats is a traditional sugar candy not all that different from marshmallow, and divinity; they all belong to the same crystalline candy family and all three are very, very close in terms of texture, flavor and technique. Made in Province since the end of the 17th century, when almond trees were introduced to Southern France, nougat as we know it replaced a similar walnut confection as the local delicacy. The first commercial nougat factory in Montelimar opened in 1770, and a few of the town's existing factories have been in operation since the end of the 19th century.

There are two standard varieties of nougat and many variations in between: soft nougat (tendre), which is chewy but substantial, and hard nougat (dur), which is initially crunchy but dissolves grudgingly as you chew. A spreadable version called creme de nougat has the slightly malted taste of processed milk and can be used to fill tarts and Breton-style buckwheat crepes or eaten straight from the jar with a spoon.

Nougat is made by preparing a meringue or whipping a solution of egg whites or gelatin or both and then streaming hot concentrated boiled sugar syrup (Hard-Ball Stage) into it while continuing to beat. It can either be soft and chewy or hard and crunchy depending on the degree to which the sugar syrup is cooked and the proportion of sugar syrup to egg white. Vegetable fats are added to give chewiness, and it is often studded with toasted almonds and pistachios. Fruits or honey may also be added. You can find nougat flavored with coffee, lavender flowers or chunks of candied orange peel and in all the colors and flavors imaginable.You can buy nougat in tins, in bags of bite-size squares and in chocolate-covered bars.

SARAH SAYS: Nougat is a traditional sweet in France, Italy (where it is called torrone), Spain (where it's called turrón), and the Middle East, where it's often made with rose water and pistachios. Some authorities say that the original recipe was brought to Europe via the Middle East, although others say it originated in Greece. from exploratorium.edu

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