Praline paste is not well-known in the United States, but is used quite a bit in Europe. Once you try this recipe, you will be thinking up many uses for it, especially if you’re a fan of Nutella, in which case you will LOVE this praline paste. Use it as a filling in cookies, macaroons, truffles, between cake layers or in my Vanilla Hazelnut Cheesecake recipe. The batch I’m making here is made using hazelnuts and slivered almonds, but you can go with just straight hazelnuts, or replace hazelnuts for pecans. Skinned hazelnuts are hard to find, but easy to accomplish in your oven.
First gather your ingredients for the paste. First, use equal parts nuts to sugar. In this demonstration, I used 1/2 cup skinned and slightly toasted hazelnuts (which you are about to make below), and 1/2 cup slivered almonds. Set aside 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water for the caramel. Have a tablespoon of nut or vegetable oil on hand for later in the process.
Simply preheat your oven to 350F degrees and spread the hazelnuts on a baking dish.
Bake in the oven for 5-8 minutes and the skins will start to crack. If you want to toast the hazelnuts, leave them in for an additional minute or two, watching carefully to not burn them.
Dump the hazelnuts onto a clean kitchen towel, wrap up the towel, massage the nuts and the skins will just fall off. Just pick the nuts out from the skins and you’re ready to rock!
Now you need a caramel sauce. Pour one cup sugar and 1/4 cup water into a sauce pan at high heat and stir until the sugar has melted. Now leave the mixture alone to start to boil and change color. As the sugar cooks, it might start to crystalize. At this point, I start to whisk the mixture and it will continue to liquefy and turn a beautiful amber color.
Quickly pour the caramel over the nuts that have been waiting on a piece of parchment paper. Let cool completely.
Break up the nut “toffee” to process in your food processor. Blending this can be hard on food processor blades, so break it up a lot (I place it in a plastic bag first and hit it with a wooden spoon).
Process the mixture until it begins to look like sand.
With the food processor still on, begin to drizzle a tiny bit of oil to the mix, no more than 1 tablespoon. If you have a nut oil, like walnut, hazelnut or peanut oil, that is preferred, but a mild vegetable oil will suffice.
Here is what it will look like after being processed in a food processor:
If you want it extra smooth, transfer this mixture to a blender and process further to a creamy nut butter texture. I happen to like mine on the chunkier side. It is not really crunchy, but is a more firm-set.
This will set up to be more firm in the refrigerator which will be helpful if you’re making truffles (I’d leave chunky for that purpose). There you have it. Ready for any recipe, this paste can be made ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Recipe adapted from The Cake Book by Tish Boyle.