No trip to New Orleans would be complete without a sampling of pralines—those intensely sweet disks of sugar, butter, and pecans. I learned this during my first visit to New Orleans with Matt a couple of years ago. Now the question that is open for debate is exactly where you want to buy these little delicacies. My vote goes to Southern Candymakers, which is a family-owned store in the French Quarter. When you walk in the door off of Decatur Street you are immediately greeted with the vision of fresh pralines being scooped onto a marble slab. Only two words can describe these candies. Simply… decadent.
But alas, everything that you can purchase in the store can also be homemade. And for the fourth and final installment of my February Homemade Baking Challenge, I’ll be showing you how to make these little delicacies right in your own kitchen. Very similar to the homemade caramels that I shared with you earlier this month, the basis for pralines consists of sugar, butter, and milk. I think that often making candy can be intimidating and that’s why we default to buying it in the store. I’m here to demystify the process and show you how it can easily be done in your kitchen.
For those that are interested in a little history, French settlers brought the recipe for pralines to Louisiana. Although the original French recipe called for almonds, New Orleans chefs substituted pecans and added cream to thicken the confection, thus creating what became known throughout the American South as the praline.
Homemade Pralines Recipe
Makes approximately 20 candies
Adapted from All Recipes
1 1/2 cups toasted pecans
1 1/2 cups white sugar
3/8 cup butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In large saucepan over medium heat, combine pecans, sugar, butter, brown sugar, milk and vanilla. Heat to between 234 and 240 degrees F (112 to 116 degrees C), or until a small amount of syrup dropped into cold water forms a soft ball that flattens when removed from the water and placed on a flat surface.
When your mixture has reached the desired temperature, remove from heat and transfer hot pan to an ice bath. Beat the mixture until light in color and thick, then spoon (using two spoons) onto a baking sheet lined with wax or parchment paper brushed with butter. Let cool, then peel wax paper or parchment away from the pralines.
Heather’s Helpful Hints
Try not to stir the syrup after it starts boiling to prevent early crystallization. If you’re tempted to scrape down the sides, don’t do it — instead, cover the pot a couple of minutes and let the steam wash them down.
And that wraps up my February Homemade Baking Challenge! Feel free to check out my Homemade Caramels, Homemade Marshmallows, or Homemade Ritz Crackers if you’re interested in making some treats of your own!