When I was in the south of France a few years ago, I happened upon the city of Aigues Mortes, wherein I happened up on a nougat shop. They had an amazing selection of flavored nougats mounded into cakes, and I bought a hefty slice for eight euros and enjoyed its sublimeness over the next few days.
While you can certainly refer to the inside of a Three Musketeers or Snickers as nougat, these are a far cry from what they made in this shop. Nougat comprises a variety of confections that range from smooth to chewy to hard, and made from sugar and egg whites. American candy bar nougat — I’m afraid to say — is made from corn syrup and soy protein.
Here’s how to make nougat. (Or at least how I made my first batch.) You start with a huge textbook/cookbook that has beautiful pictures and lengthy explanations and complicated recipes, and after reading through it you decide that it’s going to be too difficult, and besides, you don’t have some of the necessary ingredients. So you go online and find a simpler recipe.
(One of the “ingredients” in the simpler recipe is rice paper, which is used to sandwich the nougat as it sets. It was easy to find at a local Asian grocer, but it’s really more like rice plastic than paper, and after I manage to scrape the rest of my nougat off the sheet I’m not going to use it ever again.)
You follow the simple recipe, and end up with something that’s kind of like nougat, but way too sticky to be usable and tastes a bit too much like honey and really wasn’t at all what you were hoping for. Certainly not what they made in Aigues Mortes.
Then you go back to the big book, and you read why you should use a combination of fresh and dried egg whites, and why the temperature is critically important to what form you want the finished product to take, and why each different type of sugar (including honey) play important roles in the end product — basically, why the complicated recipe is the best.
I have to admit this fits well with my learning style of doing and then re-learning. I needed to start with the simple recipe, just to get started, and then see what it did and then read from the experts why exactly it did that, and what needs to be done to make it better.
Now, if I can just source some dried egg whites…