I was super jealous when I found out that my sister was going to France on exchange for 6 weeks. I was even more jealous when I found out that not only was she going to Paris but also to the French capital of gastronomy, Lyon. Thankfully she was kind and after tantalising me for 6 weeks via email about eating foie gras and macarons and quenelles (which Lyon is famous for), she brought home some foodie gifts including a book on macarons, a kilogram of chocolates from Lyon and these strange pink, rock-like things called pralines.
I asked Charm what it was and she said it was pretty much ground nuts and sugar. Why it was pink I’m not sure, but these little pink rocks form the basis of the filling of another specialty food of Lyon, the tarte aux pralines. Although my sister helped her host family make one during her stay in Lyon, she had forgotten how to make it so I stumbled through the French instructions attached to the packet with my year 10-standard knowledge of the French language.
It ended up being simple enough though – I just had to make my sweet shortcrust pastry, dissolve the pralines in some cream and pour it into the baked pastry and let it set in the fridge. When I added the pralines to the cream and it started dissolving it turned a bright red colour and here is the finished result:
It was rather lurid and to be honest the striking red colour was a bit off-putting at first. But I cut myself a slice and tasted it.
It was sticky and sweet with some crunchiness from the nuts and a subtle almond flavour as well. As much as I liked it, the sugary-ness meant that a small slice was enough for me, but Charm really enjoyed it and she ended up finishing it off in the next few days. I’m hoping that means it’s a sign that my version of this special dessert from Lyon was close to the real thing!
Tarte Aux Pralines
200g crushed pink pralines
200g thickened cream
For the sweet shortcrust pastry:
2 cups (300g) plain flour
150g cold butter, diced
3 tbsp (45g) caster sugar
2-3 tbsp ice water
1. To make the pastry, process the flour, butter and sugar in a food processor until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. With the motor running, gradually add the water until the dough starts to cling together. Knead lightly and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Roll out the dough until it is large enough to fit your tart tin. Line the tin with the pastry, cutting off the excess and place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes. Cover the top of the pastry with baking paper and fill with weights or uncooked rice. Blind bake for 10 minutes, then remove the baking paper and weights and bake for a further 10 minutes or until the crust is golden. Set aside to cool.
3. To make the praline cream, heat the cream with the crushed pralines in a saucepan over low heat, whisking from time to time, until the temperature on a sugar thermometer reaches 110ºC. (If you don’t have a sugar thermometer you can also tell when it is ready when the cream starts to thicken and you can see the bottom of the saucepan when you draw a whisk through the mixture). Remove from the heat and allow to cool. When it is ready, pour the mixture into the pastry and place in the refrigerator until set (about 4 hours).