On June 24th, National Pralines Day honors 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.
- 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 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 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 creating what is known throughout the Southern United States as the praline.
- Although the stories surrounding the creation differ, it is widely agreed that pralines are named after French diplomat from the early 17th century whose name and title was César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin.
- In New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast, where there are many communities settled by the French, the pronunciation is prah-leen, with the long aaah sound. Other regions of the country, including parts of Texas, Georgia, and New England have anglicized the term and pronounce it pray-leen.
- In Europe, the praline has evolved to an entirely different candy altogether. In Belgium and France, praline is a smooth paste of cocoa blended with finely ground nuts and used to fill chocolate bon-bons, but when it came to New Orleans it took another road.
- In 1915, Louise Agostini, wife of Jean Neuhaus II, developed the first ‘ballotin’, a box in which French pralines were packed.
- There are three main types:
- Belgian pralines
- French pralines
- American pralines
- Belgian pralines are also known as “(soft-center) Belgian chocolates”, “Belgian chocolate fondants” and “chocolate bonbons” in English-speaking countries.
- French pralines began in the home of the French Count of Plessis-Praslin (1598 – 1675); the word praline deriving from the name Praslin.
- American pralines are a softer, creamier combination of syrup and pecans, hazelnuts or almonds with milk or cream, resembling fudge