Praline Pleasures by Ellen Byron
When I attended Tulane University in New Orleans, I came away with a love of many things – tropical flora, creole cuisine, a (very) wide variety of cocktails. But I developed a particular passion for chewy pralines. I’d take a break from my studies and curl up with an Agatha Christie mystery, a cup of tea (okay, a Dixie beer), and a praline. The hard ones were a little too sweet for me, although friends would question whether there’s a dessert on the planet too sweet for me. But the chewy pralines, with their chunks of pecans and taffy consistency, really hit my sweet spot, no pun intended. (Okay, pun intended.)
As I was writing my debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, I decided to combine my love of pralines with my affection for Tulane. Artist Magnolia “Maggie” Crozat, the protagonist of Plantation Shudders, is no cook, but both her parents are. Her dad Tug also happens to be a Tulane alumnus, so I had him invent his own recipe for the tasty candy, and label them “Chulanes” in honor of his beloved alma mater.
I’m a little older, wiser and heavier since my college days, so I decided to add a healthy twist to the recipe by making the primary ingredients honey and unsweetened dark chocolate. To paraphrase one of Cajun Country’s most famous sayings, laissez le bon pralines rouler!
8 oz. unsweetened baker’s chocolate, melted
½ cup honey, warmed
¼ teaspoon vanilla (you can substitute a liquor like rum or bourbon if you prefer)
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup mix-ins, like chopped nuts, raisins, dried fruit (Tug’s favorites are raisins and slivered honeyed almonds)
Stir the honey into the melted chocolate. It will be soupy. Don’t worry about that.
Add the vanilla and salt, and stir. Mix in the mix-ins.
Line a baking sheet with parchment. Drop the Chulanes onto the parchment by large spoonfuls.
Place in the freezer until the Chulanes harden. They should be kept in the fridge after that, and will have a chewy consistency.
Ellen Byron is the author of PLANTATION SHUDDERS: A CAJUN COUNTRY MYSTERY (August 11, 2015; Crooked Lane Books). She is also a television writer whose credits include Wings, Still Standing and Just Shoot Me and a freelance journalist whose work has appeared in Glamour, Redbook, Seventeen and other publications. For more: www.ellenbyron.com
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