Praline, in the simplest sense, is candy that is made from a combination of nuts and sugar. The Britannica officially describes it as “a cooked mixture of sugar, nuts, and vanilla.” They also noted pralines as a “sugar-coated almond or other nutmeat,” and a “candy of sugared pecan meats or coconut.”
Though it has French origins, it has become a tradition and a dessert that represents the Southern states especially Louisiana, Texas, and more!
- Praline was originally made of whole almonds covered in caramelized sugar. Though now it is more known to consist of pecans, especially in the States.
- The origins of praline can be traced back to the early 17th century and was created for a French diplomat named César duc de Choiseul, Comte du Plessis-Praslin. Praslin has evolved into the word pralin in French.
- It was the French settlers in Louisiana that brought pralines to the American shores back in the 19th This is where the practice of using pecans started instead of almonds and other nuts that were hard to obtain in the South at that time. It was said that the chefs in Louisiana added cream to the boiling sugar mixture giving it its softer, fudge-like texture.
- June 24th is the National Pralines Day.
There are several types of pralines known all-around the world:
- American Pralines – These are the pralines associated most with New Orleans, Louisiana. These pralines are made from pecans, sugar, cream, and butter.
- Belgian Pralines – These are also known as the soft-center Belgian chocolates. They have a milky hazelnut filling coated by a chocolate outer shell.
- French Pralines – Now, these are the original pralines. These are whole almonds that are coated in caramelized sugar. These candied almonds can then be ground into a powder, which they call pralin, and is used to fill the Belgian chocolates.
Confectioneries, candy makers, and dessert shops often carry pralines of different flavors and coatings. Pecan producers, who expand their offerings also sometimes their own praline or pecan candy.
Production & Farming in Texas
With pecans being the only commercially grown nut in Texas, pecan producers are all over the state. Some of these local pecan producers offer pralines using their own harvests, or they supply praline makers and other shops with the freshest and tastiest pecan yields. Nothing beats like having the real taste of Texas in your desserts!
E.G. Littlejohn’s “The Pecan: Its Culture and Commercial Value” even had this quote about just how ingrained pralines or pecan candies, to be more specific, in the Texas culture: “The pecan candy man, usually a Mexican, dressed in white duck jacket and trousers, is a familiar sight on the street corners of every Texas city.” Studies on its success in the lone star state were also attributed to the abundance of wild pecans, along with the easy process and short list of ingredients, making pecan candies and pralines convenient and viable even for street-corner sellers.
Preservatives, Additives, and Chemicals
Pralines or pecan candy can be made as natural as it can be using only the basic list of ingredients, the pecans, sugar, butter, and cream. But of course, depending on the producers, their ingredients list might have some additional ingredients that are worth a second look, or even a research.
- Corn Syrup – Many recipes often call for corn syrup. This is basically sugar extracted from corn and processed to become this clear syrup. Many often mistakenly think of corn syrup as the dreaded high fructose corn syrup but they are totally different. To clarify, corn syrup is pure glucose, while for HFCS some of its glucose is chemically or enzymatically processed to become fructose making it even sweeter than corn syrup or the regular table sugar. While corn syrup per se does not have the negative effects that can be brought upon by the high consumption of HFCS, it is still a good practice to consume products with corn syrup moderately. It is still refined sugar and may still contain traces of HFCS.
- Maltodextrin – a polysaccharide that is commonly added to packaged foods to improve its flavor, thickness, and shelf life. This white powdery substance is derived from corn, rice, potato starch, or wheat, however, it is highly processed, using acids or enzymes. Maltodextrin is considered by the US FDA to be a safe food additive and is counted in the total carbohydrate count in the food’s nutritional value. There are warnings that the maltodextrin may have a high glycemic index and might pose an issue for those with diabetes. But this substance is usually present in small amounts in food and therefore won’t have that much significant effect if taken moderately.
- Monoglycerides, Diglycerides, Triglycerides – These are forms of fatty acids and are often used as emulsifiers, which help oil and water to blend. It is commonly added to packaged and frozen foods to help extend the shelf life, prevent oil from separating from the product, and to improve its texture and stability. They can be derived from plant-based oils or animal fats, but since concentrations are usually low, these are then sourced through chemical processes. These substances are said to contain trans-fat, the artificial form of which is banned by the U.S. FDA from all foods as it has been linked to an increased risk of heart diseases and stroke. But it is said that the FDA ban does not apply to mono or diglycerides since they only contain small amounts of trans fat and are classified as emulsifiers, instead of lipids. These are also perceived as low-cost alternatives to trans-fat.
Pralines are usually individually packed in plastic or wax paper before packed together in gift boxes, segmented boxes (like that of the chocolate boxes), or decorative tin cans.
Pralines can be treated as a sweet and quick dessert snack. Or elevate the experience by pairing it with wine, making it a great companion to wine nights! The American pralines usually come in these cookie-like shapes, or like the candied whole nuts. But whichever type or form it comes in, it surely will still be a sweet treat!
Aside from eating it directly, pralines also have various uses. It can be used as toppings and garnish in ice creams, sundaes, cakes, and other pastries. Ground it up, or create smaller barks, which can even enhance the plating of your dessert!
Pralines must be kept in an airtight container. It is also advised that each piece of praline be separated or individually wrapped using plastic or wax paper. It can hold for about 3 weeks at room temperature or up to 3 months if frozen.
Make your own Praline
It makes it even more satisfying when you get to eat something you prepared yourself, or when you cook something for your family and friends. And here’s one great gift idea: pecan pralines using Food.com’s recipe!
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup half-and-half cream
- 8 large marshmallows
- 2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Prepare and butter 2 cookie sheets, or line them with wax paper.
- Combine the white and brown sugars, cream, and marshmallows in a saucepan. Cook and stir over low heat until the marshmallows are fully melted.
- Then raise the heat to medium and continue cooking while stirring occasionally. The temperature of the mixture should read 234 to 240 degrees on the candy thermometer. This is the soft ball stage.
- Pour the hot liquid into another saucepan without stirring or scraping the pan.
- Add the pecans, butter, vanilla and cinnamon. Stir rapidly until the mixture thickens and gets creamy.
- Scoop out rounded tablespoonfuls into the prepared cookie sheets. Flatten them slightly
- Let stand until it sets. Enjoy or store in an airtight container.