Pralines are a candy made by binding almonds together with a sugar syrup.
You can eat the candy whole as is, or crush it to be used as a topping or a garnish between layers of a dessert.
To make Pralines, almonds are toasted, then stirred into a sugar syrup with is then caramelized. At the end of cooking, vanilla extract is stirred in for flavour.
They are then coated with Arabic gum (aka Gomme arabique) to give them a sheen.
In New Orleans, Pralines are made with pecans instead.
The invention of Pralines is credited to the chef of César, duc de Choiseul, comte de Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675) during the 1600s. The chef, whose name was Clément Jaluzot (some sources say Clément Lassagne) set up a business to sell Pralines and other confections in 1650. He set up his shop “Maison de la Prasline” in Montargis, where he had been born, in the Loire. In 1903, the shop was bought by Léon Mazet and it has remained in the Mazet family to this day (2005) where it still sells their Pralines in distinct yellow boxes.
There are two recipes for Pralines dating from 1692 in a book called “Nouvelle instruction pour les confitures, les liqueurs et autres fruits” (Nouvelle Edition, revue, corrigée & beaucoup augmentée.) The first, called “Pralines grises”, uses a sugar syrup to coat the almonds but they aren’t caramelized. The second, “Pralines rouges”, has you caramelize the almonds. In this 1692 book, they were already being spelled “Pralines” (without the “s” in the middle.)
Pralines are sometimes still spelled “Praslines” in French.