Did you know? The colour of nougat varies according to the way it's cooked. Renowned for its smoothness, white nougat is a mixture of honey and beaten egg white, cooked in a double boiler and slowly stirred for almost five hours. It's only when its white paste has doubled in size that the melted sugar is incorporated into it. Then the almonds are added, before the paste is transferred into moulds. Unlike black nougat, white nougat bars must sit in moulds overnight before they're ready for eating - usually as a dessert.
...or black nougat
Black nougat, on the other hand, is a delicious mixture of honey, egg whites and almonds cooked over high heat, and stirred vigorously for 45 minutes so that the honey is caramelised. Attention is required. It only takes a few seconds of distraction for the nougat to be overcooked and take on a burnt flavour. Black nougat is cut into bars just a few hours after moulding.
A little bit of history...
Nougat is a Provençal speciality that originated in Marseille. It owes its letters of nobility to agronomist Olivier de Serres who, in the 18th century, planted almond trees in Provence. The almond then replaced the walnut from the original recipe - and Montélimar nougat became an iconic product. It was offered to distinguished guests who visited the city. In 1701, returning from a trip to Spain, the Dukes of Berry and Burgundy, grandsons of Louis XIV, received it as a gift. In no time, the delicacy became famous in France and beyond.
A Provençal tradition
Montélimar nougat is one of the 13 'desserts' traditionally served on the Christmas table in Provence. Along with dried fruits, pompe a l'huile (a sweet olive oil bread) and a cake flavoured with orange blossom and fresh fruit, it is one of the four 'essential' desserts. These are collectively known as the 'Four Beggars' in reference to the four religious orders that took a vow of poverty. The white and black nougat represent the penitents.
Down the generations
There are 13 artisans still making Montélimar nougat today. Maison Arnaud Soubeyran, founded in 1837, is the oldest. For four generations, this family business has perpetuated the heritage of region. The Nougat Museum in Montélimar traces its history.
Got a sweet tooth?
From cake to ice cream, Montélimar nougat is used in all kinds of recipes. Great chefs are now revisiting the recipe for traditional Montélimar nougat. Examples include Alain Ducasse with his orange version, and Cyril Lignac with his frozen nougat with honey and candied fruit.
A treat to kick off the holiday
Montélimar nougat owes its fame to the Nationale 7, the main road that once led holidaymakers to the south of France. Since then, millions of visitors have visited Montélimar each year for a foodie break. Many people, nostalgic for their childhood, stop with their families at the Montélimar motorway service area to buy nougat typical of the region.