This delectable Louisiana brittle candy dates back to 1750. Originally pralines were made with almonds–the preferred nut of the French–and was considered an aid to digestion at the end of the meal. However, the Creoles quickly found a better alternative in the abundant pecan and replaced the white sugar with brown. Today it’s considered one of the paramount sweets in the South. In New Orleans, it used to be a tradition for young women to make pralines before going to a ball and then enjoy them with friends (and beaux) at their homes afterward.
Be sure to use a heavy Dutch oven and a candy thermometer, and make pralines on a day when the weather is dry—humidity can make them grainy.
- 2 cups pecan halves and pieces
- 3 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 1/4 cup butter
- 2 tablespoons light corn syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Wax paper
- Preheat oven to 350°. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through. Cool completely (about 15 minutes).
- Meanwhile, bring brown sugar and next 3 ingredients to a boil in a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until a candy thermometer registers 236° (soft ball stage). Remove sugar mixture from heat.
- Let sugar mixture stand until candy thermometer reaches 150° (20 to 25 minutes). Stir in vanilla and pecans using a wooden spoon; stir constantly 1 to 2 minutes or just until mixture begins to lose its gloss. Quickly drop by heaping tablespoonfuls onto wax paper; let stand until firm (10 to 15 minutes).
TRY THESE TWISTS!
Chocolate-Pecan Pralines: Prepare as directed through Step 2. Add 2 (1-ounce) unsweetened chocolate baking squares to sugar mixture. (Do not stir.) Proceed as directed in Step 3.
Café au Lait Pecan Pralines: Add 2 Tablespoon s instant coffee granules with brown sugar in Step 2.
Bourbon-Pecan Pralines: Add 1/4 cup bourbon with brown sugar in Step 2.