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PRALINE MAGIC

Fat Tuesday is almost here, and with it the perfect occasion to conjure with Praline.  I’m all set to take a standard Sweet Potato Pie recipe and give it the ‘praline treatment’ in next week’s classes. Wait, what kind of  ‘praline’ do I have in mind?   

With all due respect, it is not the New Orleans praline, pronounced, praw-leen.  That city’s gift to the confectionery world is a stand alone product: pecan halves embedded in a cookie-like circle of sugar, butter and cream.  What I have in mind is equally addictive and contains just two ingredients.

  

 Praline, the confectionery ingredient, consists simply of a nut (pecans, almonds or walnuts) coated with caramelized sugar.  It is coarsely ground and blended with other pastry ingredients where it has a synergetic effect but keeps a low profile.  Even when identified in a chocolate filling or buttercream, praline acts to enhance rather than stand out.

I like to think of caramelization as treating sugar to a controlled burn that leaves it with an agreeable bittersweet finish that accentuates the aroma of the nuts.   It’s a technique that has stood the test of time.  The original sugar glazed almond was created to aid in seduction in 17th century France.  Are you surprised?.  It was introduced to Louisiana from France as the Praslin in the 19th century.  Americans replaced the almond with the abundant native pecan and the rest is history. 

Here is the pie almost ready to bake.  I wanted to show the generous coating of praline on the bottom of the unbaked pastry shell.  The pie crust recipe is vintage Julia Child. I have mixed both butter and shortening into the flour for a tasty, easy to handle dough.  (The glass pie plate was buttered in advance to avoid sticking.)   After the puree of sweet potatoes, sugar, spices and eggs are smoothed over the praline, the pie will be ready for a 30 minute bake at 375 degrees.  At that point I remove the pie and sprinkle on another generous layer of praline powder.  The pie will bake at 350 degrees for another 30 minutes or until it is fully puffed and the crust is golden brown.

 

 A pie this festive deserves a garnish.  Ice cream and whipped cream are too sweet for my taste so we will fold several tablespoons of creme fraîche into Greek yogurt and spoon a generous amount over each serving.

 If there are leftovers, remember the day after Fat Tuesday this year is Valentine’s Day.  Better yet, make two pies!

Link to Sweet Potato Praline Pie recipe