Pralines: A Sweet Nola Treat

Feb 6, 2016 | 2016 Articles, Food Fun, Mysteryrat's Maze

by Ellen Byron

Mystery author Ellen Byron shares with us a fun food guest post related to her book Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, along with a recipe.

Pralines are as synonymous with New Orleans as drunken Mardi Gras revelers, so when I was developing recipes for my debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, I wanted to include a recipe for the delicacy. But what exactly is a praline? On a recent trip to Louisiana, I did a little delicious research.

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Traditional pralines cool and await packaging

As with so much in this unique state, pralines are French in origin. Candymakers say that the ingredients are “sugar, sugar, and more sugar.” They kid. There’s butter in them, too, and lots of it, as well as cream or evaporated milk. And pecans. According to Linda, who mans the counter at the popular French Market shop, Aunt Sally’s Pralines, “In France, they used almonds. But plantation cooks tweaked the recipe to use what they had – pecans.”

At shops like Aunt Sally’s and Leah’s Pralines, an eighty-year-old confectionery on St. Louis Street in the heart of the French Quarter, pralines are made in copper kettles, just like they were a century ago.

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The ubiquitous copper kettle

“Copper kettles help with heat distribution,” explains Suzy, daughter of Leah’s Pralines owner Elna Stokes. When the temperature reaches 240 degrees, they’re ready to be turned into the familiar, tasty patties.

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A Praline worker making candy magic at Aunt Sally’s Pralines

Pralines come in several varieties and an array of flavors. Original/Traditional are grainier than creamy; chewy pralines are like big caramels loaded with pecan pieces. Aunt Sally’s flavors include Original, Creamy, Chocolate, Bananas Foster, Café Au Lait, Triple Chocolate, Original, and Sugar and Spice. Leah’s features Traditional, Creamy, Rum, Chocolate, Peanut Butter, Coconut, and sometimes Sweet Potato, in addition to a mouthwatering selection of homemade chocolates and brittles and even a praline sauce.

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Leah’s Pralines packaging features an image of Elna Stokes’ elegant aunt Leah Johnson, who bought the shop from its original owner in 1944

Southern Candymakers on Decatur Street also sells sweet potato and coconut pralines, and I can personally vouch for their tastiness.

To be honest, my Chulane “Pralines” resemble these traditional candies only in that they’re sweet and flat. But they’re super easy to make, utilizing a microwave instead of a copper kettle. And they’re a bit gentler on the waistline, which is fine by me considering I just spent a week working my way through the rich samplings offered by praline shops all over New Orleans.

CHULANE PRALINES

(A recipe created by my protagonist’s father, Tug Crozat, and named in honor of his alma mater, New Orleans’ Tulane University)

Ingredients:
8 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate, melted in a microwave (or double boiler)
½ cup honey, warmed in a microwave
¼ teaspoon vanilla (you can substitute a liquor like rum or bourbon if you prefer)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup mix-ins, like chopped nuts, raisins, dried fruit (Tug’s favorites are raisins and slivered honeyed almonds)

Instructions:
Stir the honey into the melted chocolate. It will be soupy. Don’t worry about that.

Add the vanilla and salt, and stir. Mix in the mix-ins.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop the Chulanes onto the parchment by large spoonfuls.

Place in the freezer until the Chulanes harden, then store in the refrigerator. They will have a chewy consistency.

Makes 12.

Check out more food articles in KRL’s food section, and mystery reviews, articles & short stories in our mystery section.

Ellen Byron is a native New Yorker who loves the rain, lives in bone-dry Los Angeles, and often writes about Louisiana, where she attended Tulane University. The Library Journal chose her first novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, as Debut Mystery of the Month. The second book in the series, Body on the Bayou, will be available in September. TV credits include Wings and Just Shoot Me; she’s written over 200 magazine articles; her published plays include the award-winning Graceland. Ellen is the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant. Visit Ellen and sign up for her Cajun Country Newsletter at www.ellenbyron.com. Ellen’s debut mystery, Plantation Shudders, is nominated for a Best Humorous Mystery Lefty Award, and an Agatha Award for Best First Novel.

6 Comments

  1. Good pralines are something I miss!

    Reply
    • Me too. My favorites on this trip were the sweet potato pralines at Southern Candymakers, but I loved Leah’s creamy pralines, too.

      Reply
  2. Oh my, i love pralines.

    Reply
    • Me, too! The Creamy at Leah’s are great.

      Reply
  3. My first taste of pralines came from treats my dad brought back from a convention he attended in New Orleans back in the 60s. I was surprised that I was hooked by something that didn’t have chocolate. They were sweet, nutty, and crunchy. I will put this recipe at the top of my cooking queue! Thanks…

    Reply
  4. Thank YOU! It’s super easy to make. Definitely keep them in the refrigerator so they don’t get melt-y.

    Reply

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