If you have never tried praline paste, now is the time to make some of your own and become enlightened.
Praline paste is quite simple - it's made from nuts, toffee and, if you really want (I really wanted), chocolate. Commercially produced praline paste is completely smooth but when homemade it turns out with tiny bits of roasted nuts and toffee. It still tastes like heaven. Delicious, chocolatey, nutty heaven. Think Nutella. But better.
Recipe Adapted From: Joe Pastry
225g white sugar
225g hazelnuts (you can substitute half the hazelnuts for almonds, but I think that hazelnuts taste much better)
(optional) about 2 oz dark chocolate
1. Make sure that your nuts are peeled! If you didn't get blanched hazelnuts, take a look at this post about how to peel hazelnuts.
2. Roast the nuts, either in the oven on grill setting, or in a frypan, until lightly browned. They should start to smell delicious and look a bit oily as their natural oils seep out. When they're done, set them aside to cool.
3. Arrange the nuts on a silicone sheet or a sheet of baking paper on a tray in preparation to pour the toffee on top.
4.. In a saucepan, combine the sugar and water and heat until the mixture turns a light golden/amber colour. If you want a bit more bite to your praline, heat until a darker colour, but I prefer it lighter. This should take quite a while, about five minutes or so, but keep watching it!
If you're using a heavy-based saucepan, keep in mind that the toffee will keep cooking as you are pouring it over the nuts and can end up tasting a bit burnt - so make sure that the toffee is of a lighter colour if you're using a saucepan that retains a lot of heat.
5. Quickly pour the toffee over the nuts.
This was our first attempt at the praline - the toffee was a bit too burnt, as you can see from the dark colour.
On our second attempt, we were more careful with the toffee and hence it is a lighter colour and tasted much better!
6. Wait for the praline to harden. If you're impatient, place an ice pack underneath the tray that the praline is on.
7. Once hard, break the praline into small chunks and place in a food processor.
You can either break the praline by hand, or you can place the chunks in two freezer bags (for added strength, because the bags break quite easily) and bash them a bit with a rolling pin or the flat of a hammer.
8. Blitz in the food processor until the praline becomes liquid-like and smooth. This might take a while, depending on the strength of your processor! Don't be afraid to really blast it, though.
This is the consistency that you want your paste to be - nice and liquid so that it levels itself out.
9. If you want to add chocolate, add it now. The praline paste should be quite hot so if you're using small enough bits (chocolate chip sized), you can just chuck the chocolate in and process until combined. Alternatively, melt the chocolate first and then blitz to mix.
10. Decant the praline paste into a jar (or your mouth) and enjoy on a spoon, on a cake or even on your bread!