Perfectly smooth, commercially-made praline paste is ubiquitous in many parts of Europe. Here in the States it’s virtually unknown. However once you taste it I have no doubt it will quickly attain a place of prominence in your spread pantheon — alongside nutella, peanut butter, jam and, for you Aussies and Brits, vegemite and marmite. It’s also very handy as a pastry ingredient, obviously. Begin by assembling your ingredients. The praline comes first. Lay the nuts out on a lightly oiled sheet of parchment paper.
Then make the caramel. Combine the sugar and the water in a pan…
…and swirl over high heat until it’s the darkness you prefer. I wait until I see wisp of smoke or two since I like mine with a slightly more pronounced flavor. Most people prefer theirs a slightly lighter amber.
Anyhow…pour the caramel over the nuts and allow the caramel to cool completely.
When cool, break up the praline and put the pieces in your food processor (you can also first break down the praline by putting it in a plastic bag and hitting it with a mallet, that will save some wear and tear on your food processor blades if you decide you want to do this a lot — thanks to reader Ed for the tip!).
Start processing the praline. After about 30 seconds or so you may start to wonder if you’ve done something wrong, since it pretty much stays a bunch of crumbs.
However after another 30 seconds or so you’ll start to see that the oil is leaking out of the chopped nuts and beginning to create a more butter-like mixture.
Another 30 seconds or so and you should have something that resembles home-made peanut butter. If not, if you’re having a hard time breaking down the praline, you can prime the pump with a tablespoon or two of oil. A nut oil is ideal (walnut oil, say), though a less expensive oil like peanut will work very well too. Failing that, a neutral vegetable oil will work just fine.
To reduce the particle size still further you can take this paste for a spin in your blender. That’s what I did to get my final, barely grainy consistency. But you may decide after tasting it that you don’t need to take things to that degree. It tastes amazing either way. Oh, and did I mention that for a subtle, slightly salty taste that sets the caramel off even more, you might want to add a quarter teaspoon or more of salt? I didn’t, no. Shame on me.