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Article - You Say Praline, I Say Praline, and They Say Praliné

The word praline has many different meanings (not to mention at least three different pronunciations) in chocolate and confectionery so it can be confusing to figure out exactly what is being referred to.

The precise date and creation of the praline is lost to history. The most-repeated story goes: in the town of Montargis during the reign of Louis XIII a cook for César, duc de Choiseul, comte Du Plessis-Praslin dropped almonds into a cauldron of boiling sugar (whether on purpose or accidentally is a matter of some debate and it is not recorded what was being planned for the boiling sugar before the addition of the almonds). These confections, when cooled, became one of the Duke’s favorites, and in his honor the cook called them praslines.

Now, this cook, realizing that he had invented the next big thing, soon left the employ of his Duke and opened the Maison de la Prasline in Montargis “in a hostel near the church, near to the left side door.” Today, the Mazet family continues to make these confections using the original recipe developed over two hundred of years ago, operating a retail store in the same location as the original Maison de la Prasline in Montargis.

To start(!?) making things confusing, a mixture of nuts and caramelized sugar that is ground into a paste is called a praliné (prah - li - nay) in French but is called praline (pray - leen) in English. Praliné pastes can be made from pretty much any nut, but almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachio pralinés (and blends of these nuts especially almonds and hazelnuts) are the most common; pralinés are sometimes also made with seeds.

Praline (pronounced pray - leen) also happens to be the word that the Belgians coined for what the French (and others) call a bonbon (literally, “good good"). This is generally a shell-molded or enrobed confection with a center, usually of ganache, pate de fruit, a cream, or even a praliné nut paste. Sometimes pralines are called truffles, though truffe nature uniquely describes the irregularly shaped hand-rolled chocolate confection of enrobed ganache that gets its name from a highly desirable forest fungus.

The New World is home to its own sugar and nut confection, also called a praline (or creole praline but properly pronounced prah - leen) developed in New Orleans. Unlike its European counterpart, a creole praline most often looks like a cookie and is most often made with pecans. Although the precise origin of the creation of creole praline is also unknown, it is likely that a traveler to France returned to New Orleans with samples of praslines and the cook of the house was asked to try to recreate them - not knowing how they were made in the first place - used cane sugar and the Louisiana pecans that were easy to get.

It’s all much clearer, now, right?

Posted by on 12/12 at 01:30 AM

Previous Comments:

  1. When I was in New Orleans, I literally was able to walk down the streets and sample different pralines made by different manufacturers. Differences in flavor were sometimes quite stark, while others were fairly subtle. The main differences I noticed were the addition of butter; some people add butter, while others don’t.

    Posted by  on  01/07  at  12:54 AM

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