Nougat is a type of confection made from sugar, honey, and nuts. It is popular throughout Europe, where it probably originated, and in Australia, along with parts of Asia. In the United States, a variety of nougat is often used as a filling for candy bars and sweets. This type, while rooted in the European version, is usually made slightly differently. The word is French, and it comes from the Latin nux, for “nut.”
The most basic nougat incorporates the principle ingredients and may also include dried fruit. It can be served alone as a standalone confection, as is popular in Italy, or it can be covered in chocolate or used as a candy filling. Nougat is especially popular during the holiday season, and many hosts have a plate out for guests, or give out small wrapped parcels of the sweet. The nougat is chewy, rich, and intensely sugary. For consumers with dental problems, it can be a painful treat.
The two primary variations are white and brown. White nougat is made with egg whites, so it is lighter, softer, and chewier in texture. This is the filling which was probably originally used in American candy bars, although modern candy bars use corn syrup, soy protein, and stabilizers, ingredients which cannot be found in traditional versions. Brown nougat is made with caramelized sugar, and tends to be harder and darker in color.
European candies made with nougat typically feature it as a primary ingredient, rather than as a layer in a complex candy bar. Chocolate coatings are not uncommon, and some candy companies also make nougat with fruit-based candy coatings. Several Middle Eastern countries also make forms of this confection, which may include elements such as rose or orange water. In Australia, mixed nut nougat in both hard and soft consistencies is popular, and Asian nations make an assortment of uniquely flavored treats.
Homemade nougat is difficult to keep for very long. The ingredients can become unstable and go bad if the sweet is not carefully handled. For this reason, many candy companies add ingredients so that it will stand up to packing, shipping, and storage. These tend to be more flat in flavor than homemade versions, as honey is the culprit behind unstable ingredients and the lush taste. People who do not like the nougat in candy bars may find themselves enjoying more traditionally made varieties, while candy bar fans may find the rich flavor and dense texture of European nougat too intense for them.