Praline is a mixture of nuts and toffee that is cracked into small pieces or chopped in a food processor until is forms a delicious fairy dust. It has many uses to the confectioner, perhaps as an ingredient for ice cream or as a scatter garnish for desserts. It is also very handy to use as a base for sweet items, like quenelles of whipped cream to stop them slipping around the plate. I tend to use hazelnuts, because I have them around, but all sorts of nuts are fine. Try almonds, pecans, walnuts, or use a mix. I have even seen a chef use pine nuts. Don't tell anyone, but it is also seriously yummy to eat on its own. It is pretty simple to make, so here is a recipe.
Roast the nuts in a medium (180 °C/360°F) oven for about 15 minutes, until they smell nice and nutty. If you are using hazelnuts, you will need to remove the brown skins. Do this while they are hot, it is much easier then. Place them in a tea-towel and rub vigorously, until the skins loosen. Pick off any skins still attached to the nuts. Don't worry if you don't get all of them, if you do you are a superhero.
Place the sugar and water in a small, heavy based saucepan and set on high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Let the syrup boil, don't stir at this stage as that will make your toffee cloudy. In the meantime, cover a large flat metal tray with tin foil and brush lightly with oil. Scatter the nuts onto the tray. Now quickly, back to the toffee, you don't want it to burn! When the toffee reaches a deep caramel / brown colour pour it over the nuts. Please be careful, the toffee is seriously hot. Let the praline cool for half an hour, then snap off small pieces, or chop up in a food processor.
For a decadent adult dessert, try topping vanilla ice cream with a splash of liqueur muscat, or your favourite liqueur (try Tia Maria or Kahlua) and scatter with praline. I guarantee you will retire sated.