Singing the praises of praline
Praline is a fancy name for nut toffee, and toffee is surprisingly easy to make. It’s only small children who want to eat it in chunks but you can break it into pieces to decorate desserts and if you blitz it into crumbs in your food processor, it adds a really nice crunch to anything sweet. Praline crumbs are perfect on buns, chocolate tart and creamy desserts like mousse and ice cream. I’ve also substituted coffee beans for nuts and put dramatic shards of coffee toffee on mocha gateau.
Praline is pretty enough to go into hampers and, if you make it with peanuts, it’s also fairly cheap.
(And do add September notes and photos to your Christmas letter.)
Makes about 50cm2
Preparation time 30 minutes
Start 90 minutes ahead
1 cup sugar
¼ cup water
Line a tray with baking paper and sprinkle with the nuts.
Put the sugar and water in a small saucepan and stir over low heat until the sugar is dissolved. (This is important: don’t let the syrup boil until all of the sugar is dissolved.) Bring it to the boil and let it bubble away gently without stirring until it turns a golden colour. This will take about 10 minutes.
Pour the hot syrup over the nuts (carefully! It’s very hot!), tilting the tray gently to form a thin, even layer. Allow to cool.
When the toffee is cool, break into shards and store in an airtight container. Then, if you want praline crumbs, whizz it in a food processor.
The fete was a hoot. Trade was brisk for the first hour and we sold some good books for some good money and then we halved the prices and got a whole new clientele. At one o’clock, we plummeted to five cents a book and cleared them out by the kilogram. At two, we were down to just a quarter of our original stock, which was a good result, but we didn’t want any books left at all so we started giving them away. And here’s an odd thing: we doubled our takings! Quite a few people offered us donations even though we said the books were free and some of them paid more than we would have charged them first thing in the morning!
 And the English. (I suspect it was the best part of World War Two for most Englishfolk and they’ve passed the love of toffee down through the generations ever since.)
 Not that any of those things need anything extra but, hey, we’re talking about Christmas.
 And it’s called peanut brittle.
 Most traditionally hazelnuts but any other nut is fine too.