Now, in the spirit of holiday kindness to everyone (good will to men, and all that), I thought about not including this post. Not because pralines are not a yummy delicious treat worthy of holiday gift boxes and treat trays alike. (Or to be hoarded and eaten as an entire batch by one person. Not that I’ve ever done that…but it may have crossed my mind as an idea once or twice)
No…my point of contention is the name. I live in Louisiana and have heard it mangled all my life. I am sure that there are individuals who insist that p-r-a-l-i-n-e is correctly pronounced “pray-lean.” Just as that first syllable says, I will pray for you that you see the light. It is also not pronounced, as my then-boyfriend called them after receiving a shipment via customs, “par-line.”
It is pronounced “prah (rhymes with bra)-lean.” The accent should be placed on the second syllable.
I will now climb off of my soapbox for the remainder of this post.
Years ago, (it was before Josh and I were married…I think even before we met…which puts it roughly ten years ago) I found a praline recipe online. It was on a New Orleans recipe website. I can’t remember the name of the website (so I don’t even know if it is still in existence). I managed to save two recipes from it: the praline recipe and a recipe for a muffaletta.
This recipe ALWAYS makes me nervous. Any time that I have to rely on a candy thermometer, I get nervous. I have never made stove top brittle, caramel sauce, or caramels for that exact reason.
I had a trusty candy thermometer…but years ago…it broke. So, for well over four years, I did not make pralines. I know this because the last time I made them (I think) was before Muffin was born. Muffin had not tasted a praline until the other day.
Pralines are cooked to soft-ball temperature, around 234 degrees Fahrenheit. That is, when you take a glass of really cold water and drizzle in a few drops of your heated sugar solution, the drops take on the consistency of soft little balls.
The other night when I made these, I attempted to use two different candy/fry thermometers (both failed me) and a infrared surface laser thermometer. Unfortunately, the last one failed me because the batteries died…and we didn’t have the correct ones to replace the batteries. It seems that the batteries drain fairly quickly if you use the thermometer as a laser light pointer to drive Daisy and Angel crazy.
So…I had to rely on something that truly terrified me…the cold water/soft ball trick. It helped that weather conditions were ideal for candy-making (dry and cool). It always amazes me that the epicenter of praline production (New Orleans) is the hottest, steamiest place (it seems) in the world in the summer. Yet, professional kitchens still managed to crank them out.
You have to understand…when you put something that is roughly thick syrup consistency on a pan lined with parchment and aren’t sure if they are going to set because they are still kinda runny…the fear is heart pounding. Sometimes, it has taken over night for them to set.
Luckily, the cold water test worked. I beat them like a maniac until they were thick(ish) which helped, as well, I think.
(I would still recommend a reliable candy thermometer…especially one that doesn’t read boiling water at under 200 degrees Fahrenheit.)
If you are lucky, you will be rewarded with images like the ones above (and with tastes that melt in the mouth with a creaminess that is indescribable). Often times I have heard others (including my mom) refer to some pralines as “sugary.” According to her, sugary is bad. I think it means that the pralines lose some of their creaminess because the sugar patterns crystallize, leaving a rough texture in the mouth.
Note: I used the pecans that I picked up at the park that we picked out over Thanksgiving break.
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup evaporated milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup pecans (largish pieces of pecan halves…you don’t have to have whole halves…just large pieces)
Combine milk and sugars over low heat until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (around 234 degrees Fahrenheit). Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Beat with a wooden spoon until smooth and creamy (and thick). Drop by spoonsful onto parchment-lined cookie sheets. This recipe makes 12 largish pralines or 15-18 smaller ones. Once cool (and matte-like in appearance and opaque), they are ready to store in an airtight container (or ready to eat).
And now…for the printable.
This is certainly a Muffin Approved recipe. He really really liked the pralines, but, like his dad, cannot seem to pronounce the word pralines correctly (We are having trouble getting him to pronounce L’s).