Nougat history, recipes and anecdotes

Interview with Rodolphe Nicolaï – Fouque

Nougat is a honey and almond specialty from Provence. There are two basic kinds of nougat: white and black. Both belong to the 13 desserts of Christmas, symbolizing good and evil.

Nougat reminds me of the long car trip from Paris to Montpellier at Christmas time when I was a child. After six hours driving, Montelimar stop was a tender and comforting break that made the rest of the car travel go more smoothly for my brother, sister and I. A treat that was both appreciated by the kids and the grown-ups.

Black Nougat Fouque

The Fouque family has been making nougat since the 1860’s. It happens one of my Foodie mate get to know them and offered to interview Rodolphe Nicolaï-Fouque leading the family business.

Be Miam (BM) : Who invented Nougat and when ?

Rodolphe Nicolaï – Fouque (RN) : Black nougat is a spin-off of a traditional recipe made of honey and walnut. It was created as early as Roman times. In the 16th century, agronomist Olivier de Serres introduced almond trees in Drome and the new ingredient replaced the walnuts.

Montelimar confectioners slightly changed the recipe over the time and created white nougat. Each of them had its own almond trees and beehives and could make their own nougat.

BM: When Fouque started making nougat ?

RN: Fouque makes nougat in Signes, a small village in Var, since 1864. The recipe has remained unchanged. The confectioner’s shop is a family business passing on ownership to its fifth generation.

Originally, it’s a peddler who sold the recipe to a small village in Provence and introduced nougat in the region.

BM: Fouque only produces nougat during three months of the year. Why is the production so seasonal ?

RN: Fouque only produces nougat for a limited period of time to respect the traditional recipe. Since 148 years, Fouque is using the original equipments.

Nougat manufacturing starts in September just after honey and almonds harvest in August. And Fouque only uses the year’s crop. Due to its ingredients, nougat can’t be kept until the summer. Our firm want to maintain the best quality by not adding any preservatives. Besides, nougat is belonging the Provencal 13 desserts of Christmas.

BM: What are the nougat ingredients and flavors ?

RN: Black nougat is only made of honey and almond. It’s a reduction like a caramel.

White nougat base is made of honey, whisked egg whites and sugar. To this mixture, you might add almonds (‘nougat nature’), or grilled almonds and pistachios. The mixture is airy like an emulsion. It is cooked and mixed for 5 hours  in a bain-marie until the egg whites are fully absorbed by the honey.

Honey used in the preparation is a mix of lavender honey and all flowers honey. The proportion may vary from year to year.

BM: What is the most popular nougat?

RN: White nougat is more popular in northern France. Whereas black nougat is more intense and tends to be a connoisseur product.

BM: One or two recipes with nougat?

RN: Some like to make chocolate-dipped nougat bites by simply dipping nougat in white, milk or dark chocolate. (100% approved!)

Also, my mother makes iced nougat by slowly heating up white nougat and dairy cream. Then, put the mixture in the freezer. But it’s not an official recipe!

Where to find them ?

Nougat Fouque
2, Louis Lumière street
83870 SIGNES

 Order some nougat at http://www.nougat-fouque.com/

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