BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)— One of Louisiana’s most popular desserts is the praline.
Made with pecans and cream or milk, the candy’s rich and full-bodied flavors are near decadent. One taste of a well-made praline explains why the treat has been tempting Louisianians and tourists since the 1800s.
So, where did this unique dessert come from?
Many historians agree that its origins can be traced to seventeenth-century France.
But the praline of that time wasn’t quite the same candy modern-day Louisianians enjoy.
France’s seventeenth-century version of the celebrated dessert was made with almonds that were coated with sugar.
The dish is said to have been the creation of a chef employed by a Marshal of France and French diplomat named César, Duc de Choiseul, Comte du Plessis-Praslin.
The candy was a hit in France! It was even named after the politician, with “Praslin” eventually becoming known as “praline.”
When many French people settled in Louisiana, they brought the praline recipe with them.
This is how enslaved African-American women in Louisiana became familiar with the recipe, and tweaked it.
The women replaced almonds with pecans, as pecans were more abundantly available in Louisiana, and then added milk to infuse the candy with a creamy layer of sweetness.
Throughout the 1800s many African-American women could be seen selling their version pralines around New Orleans.
Thanks to these women, just as the original candy had become a hit in France, the Louisiana version became widely popular in Louisiana.
These days, you won’t see many street vendors selling pecan candy.
But the specialty desserts can still be found in Louisiana’s grocery stores, tourist shops, Black-owned hair salons, and even in gas stations.
That said, many locals prefer to make their own.
If you’d like to give it a try, a simple recipe is below:
- 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
- 1⁄4 cup butter (½ stick)
- 2 cups chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Rough chop pecans halves.
- Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring the mixture constantly.** 6-8 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 236 degrees (soft ball stage).
- Remove mixture from heat, and add butter. Stir in pecans and vanilla, using a wooden spoon, and stir constantly until candy begins to thicken.
- Working quickly, drop by heaping spoonfuls onto wax paper. Let stand until firm.