Cheng Yun borrowed a whole jar of maltose from Aunt Wang’s house. He used chopsticks to roll two sticks of candy, one for Chen Yan and one for Yang Hongjin, as if he were coaxing children. Then he quickly retreated into the kitchen to tinker around.
He mixed the previously separated cream with the maltose and heated it slowly in a pot over low heat. He held a spoon and kept stirring continuously.
After about fifteen minutes of simmering, the mixture in the pot gradually thickened. Cheng Yun continued stirring for a while, and soon the light yellow mixture reached a state where it could coat and hang on the spoon.
He poured the previously crushed nuts into the syrup and continued stirring. Once the syrup thickened further, he turned off the heat, poured the syrup with nuts into an oiled cloth, and placed it outside the window to cool.
With the experience from the first attempt, Cheng Yun didn’t wait for the nougat to cool completely this time. While it still retained a bit of warmth, he brought it back for cutting into pieces.
Unlike the first time when the nougat turned hard and shattered upon cutting, this time the sensation resembled the nougat Cheng Yun had tasted before. It was soft with a chewy texture, yet not overly sticky.
He picked up a piece, tasted it, and found that the nougat with maltose was a bit teeth-sticking, but still acceptable., while the nougat with nut fragments was sweet but not overwhelming, carrying a hint of milky fragrance. The more he chewed, the more he could taste its aroma.
Even though this nougat wasn’t perfect, considering the era, it was a novel creation. With a little refinement, it could become an excellent treat!
Having resolved this significant concern, Cheng Yun happily cut the remaining nougat into pieces. He picked up a piece and put it into Yang Hongjin’s mouth.
Yang Hongjin obediently ate it, chewed for a while, and Cheng Yun asked him how it tasted.
As always, Yang Hongjin gave his support, smacking his lips a few times and saying, “Delicious!”
Cheng Yun felt that this guy’s opinions held little value, so he took the remaining pieces to the main room for Chen Yan to taste too.
Chen Yan had just finished cutting a large radish and neatly arranged the cut pieces.
Cheng Yun glanced at the arrangement and mentally labeled Chen Yan as “meticulous.” He placed the nougat in front of him and said, “Come on, take a break from what you’re doing and try this newly made nougat. Share your thoughts?”
Curiously, Chen Yan picked up a piece and put it in his mouth.
The crispy and fragrant nuts, mixed with the aroma of maltose, faintly carrying a hint of milk fragrance. It’s a bit difficult to eat at first, but as you chew, the flavor lingers and becomes more and more enjoyable.
Chen Yan’s eyes brightened, a look of pleasant surprise in his gaze. “It’s really delicious!”
“Is there anything that you find lacking?” Based on Chen Yan’s speech and appearance, Cheng Yun assumed he came from a wealthy family. He believed Chen Yan’s opinions were valuable supposing what he ate in the past must have been excellent. “Is there anything you think could be improved?”
Chen Yan swallowed the first piece and blushed slightly, saying, “Can I have another one?”
Cheng Yun naturally agreed.
So, Chen Yan took another piece. This time he ate more carefully, chewing slowly and analyzing, “It’s a bit sticky on the teeth, chewing requires some effort. Hmm… Did you add cream to it? If the milk fragrance were a bit stronger, the taste might be even better.”
After finishing, he ate another one and paused before adding, “Of course, this candy ranks among the best I’ve ever had. Even though it’s a bit tough to chew, it doesn’t diminish its deliciousness.”
“What were the candies you’ve had before like?” Cheng Yun asked.
Chen Yan reminisced, “Mostly individual pieces of rock sugar, also sugar-coated haws and sugar figurines. There was also maltose like the one just now, but I’ve never seen this kind of soft candy.”
His description matched Cheng Yun’s speculation; these were the common candies sold on the streets.
As he listened, Cheng Yun pondered how to improve. He asked, “What if we added some coconut shreds or different types of nuts?”
Chen Yan thought for a moment, “Compared to melon seeds, I prefer almonds and peanuts. If you used these two, the candy would be more fragrant and crispy, and I would like it even more. As for coconut shreds…” Chen Yan thought for a moment, “I personally believe it might affect the maltose’s fragrance. Mixing it with the milk fragrance, the three flavors might cancel each other out. But I don’t really know how it would turn out. However, I really like the taste of the candy as it is now.”
Chen Yan used the word “like” multiple times, indicating that the nougat was currently a success, with room for improvement.
Cheng Yun was satisfied with this evaluation. He left the remaining nougat for Chen Yan to enjoy. He turned his head to see Yang Hongjin, who looked somewhat resentful. Cheng Yun pulled him into the kitchen and promised to make him a new batch. Only then did Yang Hongjin stop sulking.
With a rare sense of fondness, Chen Yan took another small piece and set aside the rest for later enjoyment. He truly enjoyed this candy, unlike any he had tried before. He had always had a sweet tooth since he was young, and he associated the sweetness with happiness. But about the past…
He shook his head, trying to push away such thoughts.
Sounds of intermittent laughter came from the kitchen. Although it wasn’t entirely clear, it brought a sense of inexplicable comfort.
The rustic cottage appeared simple, yet it was infused with the care of its owner. Chen Yan gently touched his belly and felt fortunate to have found this family. He was living well here and only wished for a peaceful and safe delivery of his child in the days to come.
After that, Cheng Yun made four or five more attempts. Each time, he got better until all the borrowed maltose was gone. This marked the end of the day’s experimentation.
Without ready-made coconut shreds on hand, he couldn’t test the effect of adding coconut to the nougat. However, following Chen Yan’s suggestion, he reduced the amount of maltose syrup and increased the amount of cream. There were still many nuts left from his previous preparations, so he used them to experiment as well.
In order to introduce different textures, Cheng Yun also crushed a few leftover dried plums that he had used for making sour plum soup. He mixed these with the crushed nuts to replace the dried strawberries in the strawberry-flavored nougat of later generations.
He gave the prepared nougat to Chen Yan for tasting. In the end, the ones that stood out were the most aromatic with cream and the ones with the largest pieces of nuts, as well as the ones with added dried plums.
These two look a bit like the nougat that Cheng Yun had eaten. If there were more materials on hand, he could create even more variations.
Chen Yan looked at the several nougats in front of him and couldn’t help but admire Cheng Yun from the bottom of his heart.
In the morning, he was extremely hungry, and even though the bowl of porridge he had gulped down was just plain meat porridge, the taste was excellent.
At that time, Chen Yan thought that he was very hungry, so the porridge tasted incredibly delicious, but now it seemed that Cheng Yun was naturally better at cooking than others.
Chen Yan suddenly became curious about the purpose of the radish pieces he was cutting. With Cheng Yun’s skillful hands, they might become another kind of delicacy!
During lunch, Chen Yan’s curiosity was confirmed once again.
Due to having a pregnant Ge’er at home, Cheng Yun didn’t dare to cook spicy dishes anymore. After spending the morning making nougats, he didn’t have the energy to make more complex dishes. So, he casually picked some vegetables from the backyard, stir-fried a vegetarian dish, and steamed the leftover chicken from the day before. A simple yet nutritious solution for their meal.
To the present Cheng Yun and Yang Hongjin, these dishes are ordinary side dishes, no better than the ones at Yueqiong Tower. However, in Chen Yan’s eyes, they were unexpectedly delicious.
In the past, he had heard from the nannies around him that farmers’ families could only afford meat a few times a year. Eating meat once a month was considered good, and one egg could substitute for a meat dish. Families that were slightly better off could occasionally raise their own chickens or ducks for some extra protein.
The body of a young Ge’er isn’t as strong as that of a man, but men need to work in the fields as the backbone of the family. Unless the Ge’er is pregnant and needs nourishment, generally, the meat dishes at home are reserved for the men during regular times.
Although Chen Yan had never experienced a time when he couldn’t have meat to eat, he had always heard these stories from nannies at home. After hearing them repeatedly, it created a fixed impression about rural men and Ge’ers in his mind. He even thought that he might go without meat in the near future and that his child in his stomach would suffer.
However, coming to Cheng Yun’s place, not only did he have meat in every meal, but Cheng Yun’s cooking skills were also exceptional. Even with simple ingredients, he could stir up incredibly delicious flavors. Chen Yan nearly swallowed his tongue in delight.
After devouring the food, he realized that he had shown an overly enthusiastic appearance of hunger in front of outsiders. Looking at Cheng Yun and his husband, who were looking at him in surprise, Chen Yan’s face turned slightly red.
Cheng Yun was momentarily taken aback before comforting him with a smile, “If it’s not enough, there’s more. Take your time to eat. Although our family might not be wealthy, we’re comfortable enough, and your little one in your belly won’t go hungry.”
It would have been fine if Cheng Yun didn’t say anything, but as soon as he did, Chen Yan’s face turned even redder. He nodded and almost lowered his chin to his chest.
After the meal, Chen Yan hurried to tidy up, wanting to make up for eating so much delicious food. However, this was usually Yang Hongjin’s task, and he was afraid of it being taken away. When he saw Chen Yan starting to clean up, he quickly held onto his bowl tightly.
“Bro-Brother Yang, let me do it,” Chen Yan said timidly when facing Yang Hongjin.
However, Yang Hongjin wouldn’t budge an inch. “I did this!”
“It’s okay,” not understanding Yang Hongjin’s thoughts, Chen Yan’s naive intention was to contribute something, “l-let me do it, you can rest.”
“I won’t!” Yang Hongjin found this young Ge’er really annoying. Not only did he occupy his wife’s attention, eat his candy, but now he even wanted to snatch the task of cleaning up the dishes and chopsticks. Why didn’t his wife throw him out already?
As Cheng Yun emerged from the kitchen, he saw the confrontation between the two. After hearing a couple of sentences, he figured out what was happening. If someone didn’t know the context, they would think they were fighting over some precious treasure.
He walked up and patted Chen Yan’s hand, then smiled and said, “It’s alright, let him handle it. He’s used to it and is afraid you’ll take credit from him.”
“Huh?” Chen Yan looked confused.
Then, in the next moment, he saw Cheng Yun appear to reprimand but actually speaking with indulgence and tolerance toward Yang Hongjin, “You, really, fighting with others like this, isn’t that embarrassing?”
Yang Hongjin glanced at Chen Yan, lifted his chin with a triumphant air, and lightly uttered a “hmph.”
Yang Hongjin: I love working, working makes me happy.