Pralus, part 2: the Brioche
It was April 1, 2002 when I first laid eyes on those beautiful, bright pink brioches. I didn’t quite know what they were, but I was awfully curious to find out. I was standing outside of François Pralus’ eponymous shop in Roanne, France, which his father Auguste Pralus opened in 1955. I was staring inside the pastry shop window, wondering why it had to be closed at that very moment. I had taken 2 trains from Clermont-Ferrand (where I was living at the time), for a total of almost 3 hours to go to lunch at Restaurant Troisgros. Crazy? Yes, but totally worth it! I not only remember every course of that 4 hour lunch, but also that moment outside of Pralus’ shop. I had no clue then that I would eventually know all of Pralus’ products, and even have the chance to work with François himself at the Chocolate Show in New York.
Now I only need to take one train from Zürich, be it 4.5 hours, to get that same brioche. With the opening of Pralus’ boutique in Paris, it won’t be too long before everyone is talking about the shop’s irresistible specialty, of which there are several in my freezer in Zürich.
This is not your typical brioche with a few pink candied nuts sprinkled on top. Oh, no. I am referring to “La Praluline,” Auguste Pralus’ creation that has been copied time and time again, but never quite equalled. A pure butter brioche exploding with pink confetti – what is it? Superior quality hazelnuts and almonds that have been toasted, coated in pink boiled sugar and then crushed. I was able to watch the baking process at Pralus’ stand at Paris’ Salon du Chocolat last week. Preweighed mounds of dough are rolled out, and a generous bowl full of pink pralines is dropped in the center. The baker then folds the dough in all directions and rolls it out again – a process to be repeated many times. This distributed those pink beauties all throughout the dough. The sugar then ever so slightly melts into the brioche when it bakes – making for a true masterpiece, hence its worldwide success right from the beginning.
But of course with a pastry this exceptional, you can bet the recipe is a top secret. Estelle in Paris’ shop confided in me that her boyfriend is a Pralus, and she still does not know the secret! I later asker her, “why pink?” There is no flavor, it is simply natural coloring. She said that green or blue probably wouldn’t be too appetizing after all. Agreed. I have seen over the years plenty of brioches and pralines that are pink, so I wondered if other pastry chefs at the time of La Praluline’s creation were also working with pink? Or was it Auguste Pralus who used pink in pastry for the very first time? A good question, Estelle assured me… one that she’ll have to get back to me on.
In the meantime, I’ve got a brioche that’s just about ready to start defrosting…
Pralus’ website (in French, English and Japanese)
Pralus Paris 35 rue Rambuteau 75004 Paris France +33.1.48.04.05.05 & Pralus Roanne 8 rue Charles de Gaulle 42300 Roanne France +126.96.36.199.69.02