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Author Notes: Pralines are a confection of French origin made of nuts covered in caramel. Almonds and hazelnuts are most often used though in the American South pecans are preferred. Pralines are usually spread into a thin sheet on buttered or oiled marble and broken into pieces which can be used as a confection in its own right. This is particularly good when the pieces are dipped in tempered chocolate.
However Pralines are most often ground to a powder. The resulting Praline powder has many uses, as an ingredient in various sweet doughs and desserts, e.g. cheesecake, crème caramel and ice cream, as a flavouring for icings and creams, as a topping for baked apples or pears, ice cream and chocolate mousse or dusted on cakes. It's also used as a filling for chocolates which are known as praliné or praline Belge, i.e. Belgian chocolates.
Pralines were named after the French Field Marshal César de Choiseul du Plessis-Praslin, Duke of Choiseul (1598-1675). He joined the army at the age of fourteen, was an ambassador in the service of King Louis XIII and, on behalf of King Louis XIV, negotiated the Treaty of Dover, an Anglo-French alliance with King Charles II of England. The pact provided Charles II with a French subsidy, freeing him from financial dependence on Parliament, in return for his support of French policy in Europe. Though it was his chef who is said to have thought of coating almonds in sugar, it was the Duke's idea to invent a confecton to distract the rebels of Bordelais. —olinsloan
- 8 ounces (225 g) blanched and toasted almonds or hazelnuts, whole or slivered
- 8 ounces (225 g) granulated or caster sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- Pinch salt, opt.
- Place the nuts on a lightly greased baking sheet in a single layer.
- In a heavy saucepan over medium heat, add the sugar, salt (if you like the taste of salted caramel) and water. Once the sugar has melted increase the heat a bit and boil, swirling the pan occasionally, until the sugar begins to caramelise.
- Immediately remove the saucepan from the heat or the caramel will burn and pour it over the nuts. Flatten into a thin sheet using a greased palette knife or the cut side of half a lemon.
- Cool the praline until hardened completely (about 20 minutes) and break into pieces. Grind to a fine powder in a food processor.
- If kept in an airtight container at room temperature or in the freezer praline powder will keep indefinitely.