The Rhône-Alpes nougat is a gem of French confectionery! Originating from Montélimar, in the south of the Rhône-Alpes region, this exquisite almond nougatine recipe has made the pride of the area's inhabitants. The traditional nougats de Montélimar are now so renowned that both French and foreign tourists have a break at the Montelimar motorway station to relish - and take away! - some nougat candies.
To be qualified as "Montelimar nougat", the candy must be made out with 28% of peeled almonds, 16% Lavander honey and 2% pistachio nuts. The two first produce are actually some specialities of the Rhône-Alpes food and gastronomy.
The traditional nougatine recipe consists in mixing honey with water and sugar, pouring the syrup into whipped egg whites, and finally adding crushed pistachios and a touch of vanilla. After having cooked the almond nougat preparation in authentic large copper pots (au bain marie), the Artisans Nougatiers (nougat producers) spread the paste onto marble slabs and let it cool. Cutting the sweet caramelized paste into squares the day after is the ultimate step, before relish it!
It is believed that the idea of mixing almonds and honey dates back to the Greeks who had been producing the “Nôgalon” in Marseille to replace the Romans' "Nux Gatum" or "Nougu" made with walnuts. That could explain the name of the Montélimar candies, "nougat" derivating from the Latin word for walnut, "nux" .
Montelimar has been associated with the production of nougat since the 17th century. The almond candy originates from the agronomist Olivier de Serres who had planted some almond trees in Rhône-Alpes in the late 16th century. Official documents of the town of Montelimar indeed proved that almond nougat candies were considered as being a common valuable present for important persons such as Philippe V d'Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV, who visited the Rhône-Alpes region in 1701 and received the sweet speciality in return.
Top Tip! The typical French nougat candy can be "black" (nougat noir) or white, soft or crunchy. The soft nougat consists in small tender cubes with almonds and pieces of pistachio whilst the crunchy almond nougat is definitely hard and candies are generally wrapped individually.
The first nougat factory was built in Montélimar in 1770 and since then, the authentic nougat has been very popular in the whole country.
Nevertheless, the local production of this delightful almond and honey candy actually increased in the 1930s, when French people started to go to the Southeast of France to spend their holidays and Montelimar became a pleasant motorway station to rest and snack on some nougat!