Praline or Pralin is a type of confectionery commonly made using caramel and nuts. The ingredients differ from region to region and depending upon the praline recipe it can be found in brittle, chewy or powdered forms. It is used as a flavor for chocolates and confections while the nutty texture of praline powder makes it ideal for serving on top of desserts and ice creams.
Popular recipes include Almond Praline Gateaux, Creamy Pralines with Toasted Pecans, Praline Squares with Graham Crackers and Marshmallow Pralines.
History of the Praline Recipe
Praline was born in the kitchen of Praslin, a sugar industrialist. The original recipe of Praline consisted of whole almonds being coated with light brown caramel syrup. Over the years, the praline recipe evolved and changed as new ingredients were introduced in different parts of the world.
Today we can distinctly categorize Pralines from America, Europe and Belgium. The American Praline was created sometime in the 19th century and the Belgian Praline was born in the early 20th century.
Ingredients and Popular Methods of Preparation of Pralines
A praline recipe has 2 main ingredients to it – sugar and nuts. Other ingredients like butter, cream, chocolate, etc are used depending upon the country it is being prepared in. Nuts used in a praline recipe too vary from country to country. For example, Hazelnuts and Almonds are used in Europe while pecans are a favorite in the US. Some Asian countries also experiment with cashew nuts while making praline.
Commonly it can be seen that sugar is first caramelized and then nuts are added to make the basic and original praline. The mixture is then poured onto a greased surface so that after it hardens once cooled; it peels off easily from the surface. This stage onwards variations in praline recipe can be found as other ingredients are added. Nuts are either chopped or kept whole in the recipe.
Popular Praline Recipe Variations
A Praline recipe has many forms and variations to it. However, 3 types of Praline can be seen commonly American Praline, European Praline and the Belgian Praline.
- European Praline – Europe is where praline was born. Here the caramel coated nuts are crushed to a get a powder which is called pralin. Pralin, in Europe, is added to cakes, ice creams, chocolates, desserts etc. The French mix praline with chocolate and call it praline. In UK, praline is not powder and eaten whole as a slab.
- American Praline – The American Praline recipe is influenced by the European praline but has some local touch to it. Praline was first prepared in Louisiana and later modified to suit the local palate. American Praline is a confection made by boiling all the ingredients i.e. sugar, nuts, butter and cream to sticky fudge like consistency which is then poured on waxed sheets and sold as confections.
- Belgian Praline – Belgian Praline is not a praline at all. It is in fact name given to chocolates with filled centers, which are created in various shapes and usually gift wrapped. The centers consist of nuts, liquor, butter and marzipan. Belgian Praline was a creation of Jean Neuhaus, a candy maker for pharmaceutical companies. Belgian Praline is also often referred to as Belgian Chocolate and Chocolate Bonbons.
Serving and Eating Pralines
The serving and eating patterns of Praline differ from region to region. In Europe, powdered form of praline is used as a flavor for cakes and chocolates or a garnish for desserts and sundaes. It is also eaten as a snack in the UK.
Praline is often sold as a confection wrapped individually, like chocolate, in America and Belgium.
Health and Nutrition Facts of Pralines
Praline is an instant energizer due to its high sugar content. Other ingredients like butter, cream, nuts, etc increase its calorific value. Nuts in a praline recipe boost its nutritional value. Although ingredients are few it should not be assumed the calories are toned down too, like other sweets praline is also high in fat and calories.
Praline is an easy to make confection. It can be made fresh at home and stored for longer durations or bought readymade from the store. Due to high sugar content the crisp praline whether in powder or slab form tends to become soggy so the right storage method needs to be used.
Praline and Nougat are often mistaken for each other. While praline recipe and nougat recipe use common ingredients the end product is totally different in terms of its taste, texture and shape. Nougat is more like a candy sold packaged in stores.
Praline is similar to the Indian confection ‘chikki’, which is made using nuts and jaggery. The style of making both is similar only caramelization is not needed since jaggery has natural brown color.