Pralines (prah-leens) have always been my absolute favorite candy, with brown sugar fudge coming in a close second and peanut butter fudge rounding out my top three. My mom never made them at home, but anytime there was a bake sale – school fairs, festivals, etc. – there would be pralines available, and I would always buy some. At some point, I was a teenager, I think, I tried to make them myself. Armed with a recipe, but no candy thermometer, I set about the process, dropping bits of the molten hot mixture into a cup of cold water, looking for the elusive soft ball stage. Pecans are not inexpensive nuts, so the fact that I ended up with a pan of pecans coated wtih sugary brown goo that never set into the acceptable praline shape, I gave up. Years passed, and I married my husband, who also ranks pralines high on his favorite candy list, and I decided to try again. This time, along with a recipe from the back of the pecan package, I also had a candy thermometer. I acheived a modicum of success, as the first 2 dozen I scooped were perfect, but the last 2 dozen were a bit grainy, as the mixture had continued to cook while in the pot. I realized that I probably should have not used the enameled cast iron pot, as it retains heat. So, like many of other south Louisiana cooks, I went out and bought a 6 quart heavy aluminum saucepan which is now the designated “praline pot” and only use it to make pralines. I make pralines in small quantities as you must work quickly, and a huge pot of molten sugar is a wee bit scary.
Pralines are a traditional part of both Cajun and Creole family Christmas cookie trays, so add a little Cajun & Creole to your Christmas this year!
1 1/2 cups sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 cups pecans, toasted and cooled (I leave mine whole, but you can chop them if you prefer)
1 teaspoon vanilla
Toast pecans at 350 degrees for 7-8 minutes; remove from oven and allow to cool.
Place a few sheets of newspaper on your counter and cover with parchment or wax paper; this is where you will spoon out the pralines.
Combine sugar, cream, butter, corn syrup, salt, and pecans in a deep saucepan.
Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Be sure to attach candy thermometer to pot.
Cook to soft-ball stage, 235-240 degrees.
Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla.
Immediately begin spooning candy onto prepared parchment paper – I use a large soup spoon.
Allow candy to set completely before placing onto a plate.
Store in a airtight container.