Yesterday was not a good day in the kitchen. I had in mind a fabulous chocolate and ricotta tart adorned with golden, crunchy praline but sadly it didn’t quite turn out as I planned. The tart neither tasted good, nor looked good so for me it’s back to the drawing board on that one. The only successful element of the dish was the hazelnut praline so here is an abbreviated post on how to make the praline.
Praline can of course be made with any nut, even salted nuts. If your nuts still have the skin on then they should be removed first. Although this process doesn’t take very long it can be a bit messy. My advice – always buy skinned nuts if you can. The next stage is roasting the nuts. Should you, shouldn’t you? Again – this is a quick process so I would say yes. It adds less than 10 minutes on to the whole process and I think the nuts taste better for having been roasted. The next stage is the caramel. All I can say is have everything ready before you start, focus only on the caramel and you should come out with a gorgeous batch of liquid gold. If not – try again. It’s worth it! Praline can be used in so many ways. Thin shards of praline can look beautiful on a cake or dessert. The only downside to the shards is that they don’t keep well. Caramel does not like moisture so it soon becomes sticky if left out for too long. Crushed praline keeps for longer if kept in an airtight container. Blitz the shards in a food processor and serve sprinkled on cakes, ice cream or desserts. You can also make praline paste – all you have to do is carry on with the blitzing process until the oil from the nuts starts to separate out. At this point you can add an extra tablespoon of nut or vegetable oil to the mixture and carry on blitzing until you have a thick paste. Add some melted chocolate and you have your own homemade Nutella.
- 100g hazelnuts (preferably skinned)
- 200g caster sugar
- 2 tblsp water
- Preheat oven to 180°C (350° F).
- Lay nuts out on a baking tray and have another baking tray ready for when they come out the oven.
- Place in the oven for 5 minutes.
- Remove tray and move nuts around. (This will avoid hot spots).
- Place back in the oven for another 3 minutes.
- Check again - the nuts should have darkened slightly and smell 'nutty'.
- If you think they can take another couple of minutes without burning then do so but watch carefully.
- Remove from oven and transfer to the cool baking sheet.
- If your nuts still had the skin on then now is the time to remove them. Place the nuts in a plastic bag and roll your hand over the bag vigorously until the skins peel off.
- Place the cleaned and roasted nuts in a bowl next to the stove top.
- Line a baking tray with baking parchment and leave next to the stove top.
- Place the sugar and water in a pan. Stir until all the sugar is coated with the water.
- Turn the heat on to medium and wait for the sugar to start to dissolve. Do not be tempted to stir at this point.
- Every now and again swirl the pot to redistribute the mixture. If you stir with a spoon the mixture will crystallise and be ruined.
- Eventually the mixture will start to colour. As soon as it reaches a golden caramel colour, remove from the heat and tip the nuts in. (Mine takes about 6 minutes to reach this stage).
- Working quickly, pour the mixture out on to your baking tray and spread out thinly using a wooden spoon.
- Leave to set.
- Break into shards using a rolling pin and use as is or blitz into smaller pieces using a food processor.
- Do not be tempted to touch the caramel with your fingers - it is HOT, HOT, HOT.
If you end up with a pot of hard caramel just place some clean water into the pot and place back on the stove top and heat until the caramel melts. It should then be easy to clean.