While my children are napping and a big pot of gumbo is simmering away on the stove, I’m daydreaming about the creamy dreamy pecan pralines I made earlier today.
Tomorrow is Fat Tuesday, Mardi Gras, and I thought we’d go ahead and celebrate a day early since my husband has to work tomorrow. In honor of the Saints winning the Super Bowl (I don’t follow football at all, but that’s what I hear) and the party that’s been going on in New Orleans all month (all week, all decade, all century?), I thought I’d see if I could find an “authentic” praline recipe.
I’ve never been a fan of pralines – I’ll just admit that right off the bat. Generally speaking I find them dry and somewhat flavorless – the pecans taste stale and the candy has a texture that’s just not appealing. But I figure there must be something to them if so many people love them.
I began by googling praline recipes. That was probably a mistake, because everybody and their mother and grandmother have posted recipes for pralines on the internet. I narrowed my search by looking for the history of pralines, and finally came across a site where a woman had tried 3 or 4 different recipes after doing much research, and finally settled on one she liked. That’s the one I tried.
Her research was well worth it, because this is the praline recipe I will be using going forward. If you know me, expect to receive a batch of these when the holidays roll around. They. Are. Good.
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 Tablespoons half and half
1/2 stick of butter
1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
Combine first four ingredients in a heavy bottomed saucepan and stir over medium heat until sugar has dissolved.
Brush down sides of pan with a wet pastry brush.
Attach candy thermometer to the side of the pot and let mixture cook until it reaches 235 degrees (just below soft-ball stage). Immediately remove it from the heat and add the pecans, vanilla and salt. Stir the mixture with a wooden spoon until it begins to look creamy and thickens slightly – do not overbeat (this is what causes it to become dry and sandy in texture).
Drop by tablespoons onto waxed paper or greased foil lined pans. Work quickly, as the mixture will begin to set up pretty fast.
These were so good, I decided to try them with almonds (if you read the history of pralines, you’ll learn that before the French came to America, they made pralines with almonds, but when they settled in Louisiana, they switched to pecans because they were so abundant) and with peanuts (weird, I know, but my husband is allergic to all tree nuts so peanuts it was). All three versions were excellent, but I still think pecans are the best.