What if we were going to prepare Easter and play a little bit with chocolate. What about if during this coming week, chocolate was favored. I really have nothing against this idea since as you know by now, I love chocolate.
Did we, while we were kids, use to believe that around Easter time, all by magic, eggs would be found in the hen house full of chocolate, just like these ones? Des oeufs tout plein de chocolat (Eggs full of chocolate). Maybe we did.
Who would have believed this (Qui l’eut cru?)
I did and I remember the egg search. Do you? Kids running around in the garden on Easter day, hoping to discover lots of egg treasures filled with chocolate. Of course at that age, I did not really know that in reality, the egg was a symbol of rebirth and renewal, to celebrate new beginnings, such as Spring. I was mainly interested in finding the chocolate eggs I had been promised.
I do not want to sound nostalgic but if there is one time of year when I wish I could be in France, it could actually well be now (minus the strikes of course). During Easter time, à Pâques. In every town or village, wherever you can locate a chocolatier/patissier, you get unique pleasure for the eyes when looking in their window displays. And every year, they seem to be more and more imaginative. On n’arrête jamais le progrès (Progress never stops).
This year, with more time in my hands, I wanted to put myself in the mood for Easter earlier and decided that I should try something I had never done before. I decided to make praliné.
Is commonly known as a mixture of almonds and boiled sugar. In the Dictionnaire de l’Épicerie (1898), you would find the following definition: praline = bonbon formé d’une amande rissolée dans du sucre dont elle forme ensuite le noyau, et parfumé et coloré de diverses manières.
Yet not verified but commonly repeated, a legend from the end of the 18th century suggests that the name praline is derived from the Duke of Plessis-Praslin. His cook would have invented a method of coating whole almonds in grained caramelized sugar.
Making praliné is actually pretty easy then, as David told me when I asked him. All you need is nuts – and not only almonds -, and boiled sugar – a syrup boiled to the caramel stage. But because today praliné is more commonly known as a filled chocolate, or rather praline is never used alone but to be combined, why not add some chocolate to my praliné paste. There surely exist many refined recipes to make des chocolats pralinés, secrets and techniques to be found by the best chocolatiers, but I am not a chocolatier. So as a starter, I wanted to keep it simple so that I could experiment slowly with the praline/chocolate process. I used a recipe found in Chocolate by Linda Colister, and followed the recipe pretty accurately. Key to every recipe success though, it was essential to use a high quality chocolate (chocolate which will melt easily) and good quality nuts. (I used Valrhona chocolate found at WholeFoods, or specialities stores).
- 6 eggs
- 5 5/2 oz chocolate (60 to 70 % cocoa)
- 1/2 cup heavy cream (minus 1 tbsp)
- 1/3 cup whole unblanched almonds
- 1/3 cup whole skinned hazelnuts
- 1/2 cup sugar
- Start by opening your eggs. Cut the top (I use an egg topper) to make small holes at the top (about 3/4 inch in diameter).
- Empty the eggs and keep for another use (such as an omelet, why not?)
- Clean the inside of the eggs with water and dry on a paper towel.
- Preheat your oven at 300 F and place the egg shells inside for 15mns. Remove to cool down.
- Take a frying pan and mix together the nuts and sugar.
- Cook on high to medium heat until the sugar is fully dissolvedn (a syrup) and coats the nuts.
- Remove from heat and place on a sheet so that it gets cold.
- Then crush using a food processor.
- Shave your chocolate and place it in a bowl.
- Heat the cream (do not boil it) and pour over the chocolate.
- Let sit for a mn, then stir well together.
- Let rest for 5 mns, then add the nuts and mix.
- Carefully fill the eggs with the chocolate praliné and chill for a few hours, until firm (or overnight).
- Take out 1 or 2 hours before eating.
Doing this little project was a lot of fun as a matter of fact. P. in particular liked the little chocolate eggs. Little suffice to impress him (mais non, je plaisante! I am joking!) I however still regret not being able to see the Parisian chocolate window displays and such. Maybe I should make a trip to Paris soon though? Or someone could show me what Paris chocolates look like at this time of year? If you stay and come back in a few days, you might be surprised!