Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Keyana. Keyana Wonders, “How do you cook pralines” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Keyana!
Do you have a favorite type of candy? Do you love chocolate bars? Taffy? Fudge? Lots of kids enjoy cotton candy or gummy bears. Today’s Wonder of the Day is about another sweet treat—one that involves butter, nuts, and plenty of sugar. What are we talking about? Pralines, of course!
What are pralines? The answer to that question depends on what part of the world you live in. There are three main types of pralines enjoyed by people around the globe—Belgian, French, and American.
Belgian pralines are also called Belgian chocolates. Another name for them is chocolate bonbons. They come in many varieties, but these candies always involve some type of nut and a filling like caramel or cherry. These are then enclosed in a chocolate shell. It’s common for Belgian pralines to come in a decorated box.
If you order pralines in France, you’ll see they’re nothing like Belgian chocolates. Instead, French pralines are almonds or hazelnuts coated in caramel. Often, these are ground into a paste and then mixed with chocolate. French pralines go back many hundreds of years. They were likely first made by the 17th-century French cook Marchal du Plessis-Praslin.
After their invention, these sweet candies spread quickly in the French Empire. They became very popular in Haiti. There, they could be made with sugar harvested from the island’s sugarcane plantations. After the Haitian Revolution, many people moved from Haiti to New Orleans. The practice of making pralines went with them.
It was in New Orleans that this popular candy would become American pralines. It happened in the mid-19th century, before slavery ended. An enslaved man named Antoine had learned to grow and harvest pecans in Louisiana. Thanks to him, pecan trees grew in abundance all over the state.
A law in New Orleans allowed people who were enslaved to sell goods at the city’s markets on their days off. Historians today believe the first American pralines were made by enslaved Black women for this purpose. They used pecans instead of almonds and hazelnuts because they were easier to find in Louisiana. They also added cream to the ingredients. This resulted in a treat that looks a bit like a cookie with the texture of fudge.
Pralines are still a popular candy across the American South today. Some people know them as pecan candies. How are they made? It starts with the ingredients—sugar, butter, cream, and nuts. Pecans are still traditional in American pralines, but other types of nuts can be used.
Once all the ingredients are gathered, it’s time to heat them. Many people do so on a stovetop. They mix the sugar, butter, and cream and heat them past boiling, usually to about 240°F. Then they add the pecans. Finally, they form the mixture into cookie-shaped pieces and leave them to cool. After an hour or two, they’re ready to eat!
Have you ever tried American pralines? How about those from Belgium or France? Each take on the popular candy has something special to offer. Which one is the best? We’ll leave that up to you!
Standards: C3.D2.His.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2