Any self-proclaimed candy connoisseur, sweet specialist and treat treasurer should know about earthly delights known as pralines. Even bonbon backers who have heard of pralines or tasted the sweet clusters of almonds or pecans and caramel might not know their origin and where they are so often enjoyed in the United States.
A brief history of the praline
The creation of the praline involves French 17th century diplomat César, duc de Choiseul, comte du Plessis-Praslin, who was known for wooing as much as for pralines. Although the precise nature of the praline’s origin is not 100 percent clear, most historians agree that Plessis-Praslin’s personal chef, Clement Lassagne, concocted the confection.
One praline origin story notes that Lassagne drew inspiration from young children nibbling on crumbs of almonds and caramel left on serving trays while another story involves a clumsy apprentice knocking a container of almonds into a vat of gurgling caramel. Either way, Lassagne was reportedly the architect of these divinely sweet and rich treats that his employer — and his creation’s namesake — used in his wooing and courting efforts. He would order a bundle of the sweets packed into a box and delivered with his name attached. At that point, people began calling the irresistible treats after him.
Why are pralines so specifically associated with the Southern United States?
Ursuline nuns came to New Orleans in 1727 to watch over the young French women brought to the Southern United States to marry French colonists. The young women, often orphans, came with only a casket, or small box, of their belongs. The wise Ursuline nuns accompanied the young women to help them become upstanding women, set to marry and settle in the colonies. As the nuns shared their homeland treats, locals tried to mimic the recipe. Since almonds were not local and in ready supply in the region, local confection makers used pecans to classic results, giving the praline a local flair all its own. The pecan created a unique texture and soon became an important part of the local industry, sold in Jackson Square by older Creole women called “Pralinieres.”
While Texas and Savannah, Georgia vie for bragging rights on this sweet treat, history tends to sway the vote to Louisiana, though River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen would beg to differ. Regardless of the specific area, the praline is a traditionally a Southern treasure and source of great pride.
One other small point of contention lies in the pronunciation of the candy’s name. New Orleans residents ardently believe the “a” sound is long, as in “praw-leen,” giving it more of a French sound while Texans, Georgians and New Englanders prefer pronouncing it as “pray-leen,” joking that it isn’t a fish, playing on the pronunciation of “prawn.”
Where else can praline-lovers readily find these treats throughout the United States?
While pralines still maintain a stronghold in the Southern United States, fans in the Northeast can find them in places like Bristol, Vermont and Lenox, Massachusetts. However, praline fans all around the world can order these delights from various online distributors from their origin of choice.
The World Famous Pralines sold by River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen are a popular mail order item, both during the holidays and year round. Co-owner Jennifer Strickland was born in Louisiana and took many trips to New Orleans as a kid. The Strickland family researched and perfected their praline recipe, which is the same one River Street Sweets•Savannah’s Candy Kitchen uses today.