[prah-leen, prey-, prah-leen]

Praline is a family of confections made from nuts and sugar syrup.

As originally invented in France at the Château of Vaux-le Vicomte by the cook of the 17th century sugar industrialist, Praslin, pralines were whole almonds individually coated in caramelized sugar, as opposed to dark nougat, where a sheet of caramelized sugar covers many nuts. The powder made by grinding up such sugar-coated nuts is called Cookbook:Pralin, and is an ingredient in many cakes, pastries, and ice creams. When this powder is mixed with chocolate it becomes praliné in French, which gave birth to what is known in French as praline belge, Belgian chocolates. The word praliné is used colloquially in France and Switzerland to refer to these, known simply as chocolates in English i.e. various centres enrobed with chocolate.

In most other countries the word praline is used to mean this powder, or even a paste, often used to fill chocolates, hence its use by synecdoche in Germany, the Netherlands, and Belgium to refer to filled chocolates in general. In the United Kingdom, the term can refer either to praline (the filling for chocolates) or, less commonly, to the original whole-nut pralines.

In Europe, the nuts are usually almonds or sometimes hazelnuts. In Louisiana and Texas, pecans are almost always used, and cream is often incorporated into the mixture. In the United States, praline candy patties are one of the foods most often associated with New Orleans, but are also popular in other cities in the Deep South, like Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia, where the similar benne seed wafer is also common.

Origin of the name

The praline (originally spelled prasline) is said to be named after the French soldier, diplomat, and sugar industrialist Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (1598–1675), whose cook supposedly invented it at the Château of Vaux-le Vicomte. The cook, Clément Lassagne, after retiring from the marshal's service, is said to have founded the Maison de la Praline, a confectioner's shop which still exists in Montargis, 110 km south of Paris. The name has certainly existed since the 18th century, but there is no secure connection with the Marshal or his cook.

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