In English, nougat is supposed to be a nut candy, traditionally almond. A Sicilian candy maker lists the ingredients as egg white, sugar, honey, almonds, pistachios, vanilla, and cocoa; an Australian candy maker says they use macadamia nuts, natural cane sugar, glucose, honey, egg white, vanilla and water in their usual nougat (though they also make a vegan nougat with macadamia and pistachio nuts, cane sugar, glucose syrup, wheat protein, vanilla, wafer paper and water).

Charity Ferreira, in a Los Angeles Times article, describes traditional nougat as having "some attributes in common with the hard edges of a perfectly stale Jet Puff, although it lacks the marshmallow's slippery, gelatinous quality." There are two types: "tendre" or soft, chewy, and "dur" or hard and crunchy. Merriam-Webster says the word comes from the Provençal languge through mainstream French, deriving from the Latin nux, nuc-, meaning "nut." Provence, a region of southern France, is the home of traditional nougat, particularly the town of Montélimar.

The (badly translated) page of Gerbe D'Or Nougat in Montelimar suggests that it was first imported from Greece and first made in France in the early 1700s. A legend exists, however, that nougat was made as far back as the 11th century and was the dish made in a cooking contest for the hand of a local nobleman's daughter.

Of course, this traditional candy bears little resemblance to the stuff inside chocolate candy bars, which Food Product Design says is "basically a mixture of fondant syrup and a frappé, which is a fondant syrup aerated with a whipping agent such as egg albumen or hydrolzyed soy protein". It may also have "vegetable fats, milk powder and nuts" added. The syrup is apparently just sucrose and corn syrup.

Also, in her book Green Sands, Martha Kirk says that "nougat" is the Bedouin word for a preserved milk product the nomads make. Goat, camel, or sheep milk is poured through a large funnel into a pouch made from an animal's stomach. This milk thickens over several days and is then put in bowls and left in partial sunlight. Stirred occasionally over days, it thickens more into a dough-like state, and they shape it into patties resembling sugar cookies and dry those all the way in the sun. The author described it as like sour, hardened yogurt, eaten with swallows of hot tea to soften it. For the Bedouins, it preserves a valuable food (and source of calcium) without refrigeration, and was considered a delicacy.

Sources:
http://www.nougat-gerbe-d-or.fr/anglaishistorique.htm
http://www.m-w.com/cgi-bin/dictionary?book=Dictionary&va=nougat
http://www.sfsicily.com/Flavours/flavours___11.htm
http://www.ausnougat.com.au/bliss/product.htm
http://www.ausnougat.com.au/bliss/vegan.htm
http://www.latimes.com/features/food/la-000086525oct31.story?coll=la-headlines-food
http://www.foodproductdesign.com/archive/2001/0101cs.html
Martha Kirk, Green Sands: My Five Years In The Saudi Desert, Lubbock, Texas: Texas Tech University Press, 1994.

Nou`gat" (?), n. [F.]

A cake, sweetmeat, or confection made with almonds or other nuts.

 

© Webster 1913.

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