09-03-2011

TREND: Praliné: self-made or
ready-made?

A creative approach to home-made praline and ready-made alternatives

Making your own praline is extremely labour-intensive. So it's only logical that when it comes to praline fillings, most chocolatiers turn to the ready-made range. Nevertheless: Geert Decoster and Geert Nemegeer, two of the very few remaining chocolatiers who still make their own fillings, claim that consumers prefer the taste of home-made praline. Although they also admit that producing praline takes a lot of hard work. Fortunately there is a convenient compromise between self-made and ready-made: after all, ready-made praline still allows some scope for creativity.

READY-MADE PRALINE
 

Ingredients

The main ingredients that go into praline are hazelnuts, almonds and sugar. In order to meet the strictest quality requirements, manufacturers import premium selected nuts. Hazelnuts usually come from Italy or Turkey, while almonds are imported from Spain and California.

Varieties

With the exception of gianduja, there is no legal definition for praline, however in the strictest sense of the word praline consists of at least 50% toasted hazelnuts or almonds combined with caramelised sugar. In practice, the term ‘praline’ is used in a broader sense to include:


Nut paste
Nut paste or nut pâté contains around 50 to 100% hazelnuts and/or almonds. In addition to sugar, oil or extra caramelised sugar are sometimes also added.
Use: an ideal flavouring for fillings. Adding just a small amount gives an intense nutty flavour. Their creamy texture means they are easy to combine with ingredients like chocolate or fat.
Nut crème and gianduja
Nut crème is made of around 40% nuts, sugar, cocoa butter and sometimes also cocoa mass.
According to the Chocolate Directive (2000/36), gianduja is made of chocolate and hazelnut paste (20 to 40% hazelnuts per 100 grams).
Other nuts, whole or chopped, can be added to this (maximum of 60 grams of nuts per 100 grams).
Use: both can be used as a filling for moulded pralines or for enrobing.
Nut crème is smoother and lighter in colour than giandujas.
Nut fillings with a textured effect
As well as the delicate, homogeneous pralines there are also fillings with a textured effect, such as Praliné Feuilletine (a soft filling made of crunchy biscuit, milk chocolate and almond and hazelnut praline) or praline that combines toasted nuts with caramelised nuts.
Use: as a flavouring or finished product.

From organic to fat-bloom resistant

In addition to the varieties listed above, the ready-made range also includes praline containing:
Organic ingredients
In response to the growing demand for organic ingredients, an organic hazelnut filling has been launched that can be combined with organic chocolate to produce a 100% organic end product.
Maltitol
Maltitol-based hazelnut praline tastes just as good as traditional praline and can be combined with chocolate without added sugar.
Pistachio nuts
In addition to hazelnut and/or almond-based praline, the ready-made range also features a unique green praline produced according to traditional methods, with a toasted pistachio nut content of more than 50%.
Special fats
Some manufacturers perfect their hazelnut filling recipes by combining the ingredients with various fats and oils. In the case of chocolate applications, for instance, it is possible to use special fats that can extend the product’s shelf life, or that are fat bloom resistant.

Production methods

To date, there are two different methods for producing nut paste: a praline with a nut and sugar content of at least 50%.
Traditional production
Nuts and sugar are caramelised together in copper kettles over a flame, and then ground by granite rollers to produce a dense liquefied mass. A unique flavour and exclusive texture make this praline ideal for traditional chocolatiers.
Modern technology
Modern technology and equipment is used to produce praline with a 100% quality guarantee, whilst practically eliminating oil separation. This praline has a harmonious flavour and can be processed according to both traditional and industrial methods thanks to its perfectly fluid texture.

Scope for a personal touch

Ready-made praline still leaves the chocolatier endless scope to experiment. For instance, new flavours and textures can easily be developed by combining different pralines together or with different types of chocolate. There are also a number of high stability basic fillings that the chocolatier, by adding additional flavourings, colourings and other ingredients, can prepare to any specification.

praliné

SELF-MADE PRALINE: A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE (IN TASTE)?


The majority of chocolatiers use ready-made praline. Two exceptions to the rule are Geert Nemegeer of Chocolaterie 't Karakske in Roeselare and Geert Decoster of Centho-Chocolates in Duisburg.

Why do you make your own praline?
Geert Nemegeer: “The main reason is the huge difference in flavour: although industrially produced praline can vary widely in terms of quality, the self-made version is still by far the tastiest due to its extremely intense nutty flavour. Because you yourself are familiar with the composition, it is much easier to play around with the balance.”
Geert Decoster: “Many manufacturers offer extremely high quality products, but when it comes to flavour home-made praline is still by far the best. It all goes back to the ingredients: I work exclusively with hazelnuts from Piedmont, which are without a doubt the best in the world. What’s more, my praline has an 80% nut content, as opposed to just 50% in the case of industrially produced praline. I also find that my customers like the slightly gritty, crunchy texture of our home-made praline.”

How do you make your praline?
Geert Decoster: “It is impossible for a traditional chocolatier to make his own praline without the right equipment. I myself didn’t start to do this until I had access to a mixing drum. This offers the advantage that you don’t have to continuously keep up to date. After silting the nuts in the caramel, I combine the mixture in a Stephan machine. Making your own praline is a learning process. In the past I worked with cheaper nuts, but the core sometimes turned black on heating (up to 150°C), producing a bitter flavour. Piedmont nuts can withstand this heating process.”
Geert Nemegeer: “Our raw hazelnuts, which we purchase via a French company, are first toasted and then shelled. We used to shell the nuts by hand, but now we use a drum. We then add sugar and mix the ingredients using a blender. The mixture is finally crushed in the grinder until it no longer contains any granules.”

What do you use this self-made praline for?
Geert Nemegeer: “For pralines, truffles, Easter eggs, fruits de mer ... and in our pastries.”
Geert Decoster: “For our cut pralines I work exclusively with home-made praline. I still use industrial praline for our chocolate Santa Clauses. After all, it is impossible to keep up with demand and the product is designed for children: they need to be affordable.”

Do you think that making your own praline is cost-effective?
Geert Decoster: “Piedmont nuts are very expensive. Compared to ready-made praline, the purchase price of ingredients is therefore easily 25% higher. However, this is perfectly achievable with a retail price of €44 per kilo. Customers come here to enjoy a flavour that they can’t find anywhere else, and I believe this is also the only weapon that enables us to stand out from the competition.”
Geert Nemegeer: “If you compare the cost price of ingredients with the price of industrially produced praline, it’s a break-ever. But making praline is very labour-intensive. If you need to pay staff to do this, it's no longer viable. I do it myself, with help from my wife, and we have noticed that our home-made praline have become a calling card for our business.”

Reprinted from: Chocolaterie (Confectioners) magazine

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