Place the almonds on a baking sheet and heat them in a 350° oven for about 5 minutes. Reserve in the warm oven.
Butter two long and narrow bread pans, or if you own one, a wooden nougat mold, and line with baker’s wafer (available at candy supply stores) or waxed paper (butter this also).
Heat the honey in a heavy-bottomed pan made of copper, castiron or enamel. Stir with a long wooden spoon until it reaches the boiling point. (You may stir in the rosemary or thyme at this point.) Add the warm almonds and stir for about 30 minutes, or until the honey turns brown and the almonds begin to crackle. At this point the candy thermometer should register 300°.
Pour the hot mixture into the prepared molds and push it down with the lemon halves. The layer should be about ½ to ¾ inch thick. Cover with a sheet of baker’s wafer or buttered waxed paper. Cut a piece of cardboard or wood to fit the inside of the mold, wrap it in aluminum foil and weight it down with two cans. Let the nougat cool at room temperature overnight.
The next day, release the sides of the nougat with a knife. Unmold by holding the bottom of the mold over a burner for a minute. Peel off the waxed paper. Cut the nougat into 3 long strips or leave it whole and wrap in aluminum foil. Or you may cut it in pieces and store it in a closed jar. It will become chewy and easy to eat. Keep in a cool place but not in the refrigerator.
© 1990 Mireille Johnston estate. All rights reserved.