When I was little, my family and I would go into the French Quarter on the weekends. We would walk up and down the French Market. My mom would shop the produce stands that lined the street, we would watch the ladies stirring their big copper pots of sugar, butter and milk making pralines and we would patiently wait for samples. And no stop to the Quarter would be complete without a stop at Central Grocery for my mother’s favorite Olive Salad.
Lots of wonderful memories…
A few recipes I’ve taken with me to Texas that totally remind me of New Orleans. Besides the above mentioned recipes, I’ve also got perhaps my favorite, these Pecan Pralines.
If you’ve never had a praline before, you are certainly in for a treat. These delightful candies are a simple mixture of brown sugar, granulated sugar, milk, butter, vanilla and pecans cooked in a large pot. They can be made in minutes and are simply heavenly.
Before you start, here are a few important pieces of advice…
* Have all of your ingredients handy before you start making the pralines – Once you start the process of making pralines, it goes quickly and there’s no time to search for an ingredient. Have everything pre-measured and at your fingertips.
* Use a large, heavy pot.
* Keep a kettle of hot water nearby – I’ll explain later…
* You’ll need a candy thermometer and the suggested tempertaure for the syrup should be around 238-240 degrees. But I have to tell you that my candy thermometer never gets above 230 degrees when I make pralines. I have to go by sight. I let the syrup go up as high as it will go (230 degrees) and let the syrup boil for about 3 minutes. It becomes thicker and at that point, I remove the pot from the stove, stir until it thickens and very quickly spoon and drop the pralines onto parchment paper.
* Work quickly, as soon as the syrup thickens it will become hard.
* The mixture is extremely hot and candy burns are especially painful. Take care when stirring and make sure you place the parchment paper on a cutting board to protect your counters.
* If you’d like to make Chocolate Pralines, add 1/2 cup of chocolate chips to the pot when you’re adding the other ingredients – simple as that…
Okay, remember I mentioned to keep a kettle of hot water nearby? Here’s why…
Making pralines can be tricky. It’s all about timing and sometimes you might leave the syrup cooking a little longer than you should and the mixture hardens too quickly and looks like a cakey mess. Don’t worry and certainly don’t throw it away. This is where the hot water comes in handy. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot water at a time to the praline mixture and stir vigorously. The hot water will “thin”out the praline mixture and enable you to get the consistency you should have. It’s like giving the hardened pralines a second chance.
See the difference? Before adding the water…
After adding 1 to 2 tablespoons of hot water…
Pralines will keep in an airtight container for several days although they’re best within the first 24 hours.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup whole milk
- 6 tablespoons salted butter
- 1 1/2 cup roughly chopped pecans
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Combine the sugars, milk and butter in a large pot and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
- When the mixture comes to a boil, start stirring constantly. Add the pecans. Let it boil for 3 minutes, until the syrup registers 238-240 degrees F on a candy thermometer.
- Remove the pan from the heat, stir in the vanilla and keep stirring. The syrup will become creamy and cloudy and will start to thicken.
- Drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Let cool.
To make chocolate pralines - Add 1/2 cup chocolate chips with all the ingredients in the pot.
This post originally appeared on ZagLeft.com