(Crème fraiche "recipe" #2 is at the bottom of this post.)
Before 6 a.m. this morning, before rooting around in the pantry and snacking on old cookies, before getting into the Super Glue, before deserving a smack upside the head from Bella, before spilling a sticky orange juice concoction all over the table and down the wall, Dash set out a beautiful breakfast for all of us made up of banana bread and a sprinkling of his almond praline. It is Dash's praline because he helped me with every step when we made it last week.
(WARNING: Please make sure that you and your children are wearing clothes when you make praline. There's no denying that Dash was shirtless throughout most of the process. I was a fucking idiot. But oh my god we had so much fun.)
To start, he measured the sugar, dug out the dried vanilla beans, and sucked on the sweet woodsy sticks.
We poured a splash of water on the sugar and placed the pan on the back burner. I snapped at him to stop jumping up and down and slamming into me and focus or leave because cooking sugar is serious business in fact it's the hottest thing in the world dude hotter even than lava and he got it and settled on a stool. He watched me watch the sugar turn brown, he leaned in as I inhaled the telltale caramel fumes, and he smiled as I exhaled with delight and satisfaction because he knows that heat hitting sugar is my kind of magic.
With his hand on my wrist, we stirred in the almonds, vanilla, and salt. Then we quickly spread the sticky and rapidly firming mixture onto a sheet pan. Once it was cool enough to handle, he was in hog heaven for an hour with the ultimate edible toy.
He stretched the sugar into a sword and then a gun.
He held up a stained glass window of praline.
He pieced together the capital letter "T." Or maybe a mushroom?
He bashed the shit out of it with a rolling pin and then a meat mallet.
And he placed it in a pretty jar. Then he looked at his very precise spy watch and said that it was a good thing that the praline was done because it was already 4 p.m. at LAX.
Ideas for what to do with praline once you've made it:
1. Sprinkle over crepes filled with homemade chocolate butter (recipes coming soon).
2. Serve over ice cream or yoghurt.
3. Incorporate into ice cream base at the end of the churning process.
4. Make the best after-school snack ever by dipping strawberries into crème fraiche and then rolling them in almond praline.
2 cups white sugar (or vanilla sugar* if you have it)
about 1/2 cup water
1.5 cups sliced almonds
2 teaspoons vanilla bean extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
Place sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Add just enough water to soak the sugar. Swirl (by the pot handle) until all the sugar is wet. Add more water if you need to. Place over medium heat. Don't walk away. Swirl around (by the pot handle) if it's not caramelizing evenly. Cook until it's almost at desired color (Grade B maple syrup or darker).
Remove from heat and quickly stir in nuts, vanilla extract, and salt. Place back on heat just to loosen it up a bit. Spread quickly over a sheet pan using a firm spatula. Let cool. Then bust apart with a rolling pin or meat mallet. This is quite easy if you cover the praline with a dishtowel. Or you can cut it into large chunks with a very sharp knife. Or place all of it in the food processor and puree the heck out of it into a powder. Store at room temperature in an airtight container. If it firms up again you can bash it apart. It lasts for a long time. And it freezes beautifully.
*Place new or scraped vanilla beans into white sugar and allow to infuse for a few days.