Those Sweet Pralines!

pralinesPralines can be traced back to early 17th century French history when a French diplomat’s personal chef happened to create this tasty sweet treat. The diplomat had Praslin in his name title. Legend has a few different versions of the story. One version has the chef haphazardly coming upon the creation of the praline due to some children who were playing around in his kitchen with caramel and almonds. Another version has the chef stumbling upon his apprentice just as he knocked over a container of almonds into a vat cooking caramel. Yet another version has Praslin asking his personal chef to create an irresistible treat that the ladies would not be able to deny. He would package the sugary nuts into little parcels marked with his name and hence they were named after him.

Whatever the story, the praline is a sweet confection of almonds and some sort of creamy, sugary caramelized coating. The candy was named praslin after the French diplomat (obviously the “s” was later dropped), but don’t feel bad for the chef, he went onto open a little shop in France selling the sweet treats that is still open in some form today.

In America, pralines first came to Louisiana from the French in the early to mid 1700’s. Since almonds are in short supply in that area, they substituted the nuts with pecans. The pecan pralines spread rapidly throughout New Orleans and quickly became a most popular treat. The praline spread to many other areas in the country because New Orleans is a port city hence their appearance in Charleston.

Charleston has several popular candy shops and pralines are their staple. Market Street Sweets, located on Market Street, and a stop on our Savor the Flavors Tour, serves fresh pecan pralines every day. Check out their praline packages on their website. Charleston Cooks, a Charleston Culinary landmark and another favorite stop on our culinary tours, also serves these sugary delectables to tourists and locals alike.

The praline that was created some 300 years ago has since had many variations created as well as spin-off recipes, such as praline peach cobbler and praline pumpkin dessert. We need to thank the French diplomat’s personal chef for coming upon the sweet treat. No matter how it happened, we in the South are glad that it did.