National Pralines Day is observed annually on June 24th. This day honors the praline, a confection made from nuts (whether in whole pieces or ground) and sugar syrup. Pralines may also refer to any chocolate cookie containing the ground powder of nuts.
There are a variety of pralines to be enjoyed:
- Belgian Pralines – contain a hard chocolate shell with a softer, sometimes liquid, filling.
- French Pralines – a combination of almonds and caramelized sugar.
- American Pralines – contain milk or cream and are softer and creamier, resembling fudge.
At the Chateau of Vaux-le-Vicomte during the 17th century, French sugar industrialist, Marshal du Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675), originally inspired the early pralines. These first pralines were whole almonds, individually coated in caramelized sugar.
The powder made by grinding up sugar-coated nuts is called pralin. This is an ingredient in many types of cake, 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 chocolat praliné.
The French settlers brought their recipe into Louisiana, an area of the United States where both sugar cane and pecan trees were plentiful. During the 19th century, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans for almonds, added cream to thicken the confection and thus created what is known throughout the Southern United States as the praline.
Praline can refer to confections made from nuts and sugar syrup, whether in whole pieces or a ground powder, or to any chocolate cookie containing the ground powder or nuts.
- The pronunciation of the candy is a bit of a point of contention as well. In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, where there are many communities settled by the French, the pronunciation is prah-leen, with the longaaah sound, which is closer to that of the candy’s namesake du Plessis-Praslin. Other regions of the country, including parts of Texas, Georgia, and New England have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen.
- Belgian pralines, commonly known as “Belgian chocolates” or “chocolate bonbons”, are chocolate pieces filled with a soft fondant center. They were first introduced by Jean Neuhaus II, a Belgian chocolatier, in 1912.