I will admit that my recipe headline is a bit redundant. When I think of Pralines I only think of New Orleans. I can imagine no other city evoked by these confections. It may, of course, be my own bias, having grown up in New Orleans, and having passed Aunt Sally’s Praline Shop in the French Quarter countless times.
A few weeks ago, Caitlin and some of her fellow bridesmaids hosted a bridal shower. The bride-to-be was one of Caitlin’s childhood friends and the groom-to-be was another New Orleans boy (we make such good husbands). With that in mind, the food and drinks for the evening were to have a Maryland (for her) and New Orleans (for him) theme.
Among other items, I volunteered to make pralines for our guests. At first, we had thought about ordering the pralines, but that seemed expensive, not to mention the threat of breakage. So we transitioned to the plan that had me making several dozen pralines.
And several dozen I made. My first batch was a complete and total failure. I left the praline mixture in the pan too long, let the mixture get too hot, and stirred too much. The pralines were simply a mess of dried, crumbled sugar and pecans stuck to the bottom of a pan. After I tossed the batch into a container to use as a topping for my morning oatmeal, I set on the second batch.
If the first batch was an embarrassing failure, the second batch was a delicious and gratifying success. The pralines were smooth and hard, without being sticky. They lifted effortlessly off the parchment paper and melted in your mouth. They were absolutely perfect.
With my recipe and method in hand, I packed my candy thermometer and special wooden spoon in my luggage. The day after Christmas, I set over the hot stove and cooked up sixty or seventy pralines, for our eager guests. They were a perfect treat for the festive occasion.
Classic Southern Pralines
Adapted from TheKitchn.com
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: Makes about 20 pralines
WHAT TO GRAB:
3/4 cup (6 oz) granulated white sugar 3/8 cup (3 oz) light brown sugar, packed 1/4 cup milk (I used 1%) 3 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1 cup pecans (roughly chopped)
HOW YOU DO IT:
1. Before starting to cook, lay out a piece of parchment for the pralines. Set a second spoon nearby in case you need to scrape the candy off the first spoon.
2. Combine all the ingredients in a medium sauce pan. Do not use too small a pan because the syrup will bubble up during cooking.
3. Cook the syrup over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. When it comes to a boil, start stirring constantly. Let it boil for about 3 minutes, until the syrup registers 238°F – 240°F on a candy thermometer.
*Note that the pralines will not settle and harden at temperatures below 238°F.
4. Once the syrup hits the desired temperature, remove the pan from the heat immediately and keep stirring for about a minute. Do not over stir. Once the syrup becomes creamy, cloudy, and starts to thicken, the pralines are ready.
5. Once barely cloudy cloudy, immediately drop spoonfuls of the pralines onto the prepared parchment paper. Work quickly, as the syrup starts to set as it gets cool. Let the pralines cool and harden for at least ten minutes before eating. They will keep in an airtight container for several days, but they’re at their very best within the first 24 hours of making them!