Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Southern Pralines

Creamy southern pralines are a simple candy confection, made from boiled sugar and nuts, and are a holiday tradition.

Southern Pralines

The Cajun came home the other day with a handful of pralines that his Mama has sent him home with when he stopped by for a visit with her on his way to a meeting. Now I don't honestly know how many he started off with between his Mama's and his meeting, but trouble is, see, me. Me, the sugar junkie, got into 'em that evenin' by mindlessly munching on them while I was busy putting a recipe into the blog. Well, before I knew it, those few that did make their way to the house, well... they were gone! Yikes!

Well, I felt so bad that I decided I'd better make some more. For him of course. To make up for the ones from his Mama that I ate. Yeah, that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

Okay. It coulda had somethin' to do with havin' a desire for a few more myself. I admit it. They truly can be a bit addictive. See, for me, I don't necessarily crave sugar, but... once I start, I do have a bit of a problem with stopping. But, I'll leave that up to you to test for yourself!

Now just in case you don't know, Southern Pralines are a simple candy confection, made from boiled sugar and nuts. Generally down south, where pralines are found everywhere - and especially most often around the Christmas holidays - from gas stations, to grocery stores, to the corner jyp joint, to the bakery, that nut is gonna be pecans. And, just like pecans - where depending on where you're from that might be pee-can or puh-con, pralines might be pronounced one of two ways. Down my way, we've always pronounced it praw-leen, though some folks are known to pronounce it pray-leen. Either way, no matter how ya say it, they shore are delicious!! Oh and by the way, try the coconut pecan variation sometime too - divine!

So that brings me to that very important question. Is it PEE-CAN or PUH-CON? Paula Deen calls them pee-cans and I have even seen her correct a guest or three on her show a time or two who said it "wrong" in her opinion. Well... I can't say that there's a right or wrong way, but I can say that when I was a young gal, the first time I ever said pee-can in front of my Mama, well she very promptly corrected me and said it was rightly pronounced puh-con, because a pee-can was what you kept under your bed at night to prevent ya from having to make a night run to the cold outhouse. I never made that mistake again. Not that I ever even have used an outhouse, thank ya Lord.

In all fairness, I'll have to first say that I am the first to admit that I am no candy maker, so mine never really turn out perfect looking, but that's okay because they sure taste perfect, so if you're not a perfect candy maker, don't worry. You can do this too.  Anyway... as most candies do, we start off with a mixture of sugar. A slight warning. Might as well follow that "rule" that if it's raining or looking like rain, don't make candy because it may or may not set. Don't know 'twether or not that old wives tale is true I've never  but let's just not mess with it, okay?

Put 2 cups of sugar, 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup of light corn syrup, 2 tablespoons of butter, and 1/4 teaspoon baking soda in a heavy bottomed large saucepan. Stir together and put that over medium heat.

In the meantime, go ahead and clear off a spot on your countertop and lay out some sheets of waxed paper or parchment paper. Sorry about the bottle, but I needed it to help the camera to focus on something that wasn't white. We'll need that here in a bit anyway.

Gently stir the ingredients over medium heat and using a wooden spoon, cook until the sugar has all dissolved.

See that crystalization building up on the side of the pot? Ignore it. Dont scrape it down into the pot, or you'll risk crystalizing your pralines, which will produce a grainy praline as opposed to a creamy praline.

The mixture is just beginning to get heated well and the sugar is dissolving.

Continue cooking. You'll see the mixture bubble up nearly to the top of the pot - just keep a watchful eye and a gentle occasional stir on it, adjusting the heat down slightly if needed, but keeping it at a bubbling boil. As you see, the sugar mixture is just beginning to darken.

Keep cooking and occasionally giving the mixture a gentle stir. The mixture is darkening substantially.

Boil until you reach a temperature of 232 degrees. Remove from the heat, add the vanilla extract, and begin beating the mixture until it's nice and smooth.

Stir in the pecans. I generally like to use pecan halves that are sightly broken up.

Stir the pecans in quickly as mixture will begin to thicken up fairly fast.

Drop by spoonfuls into piles on those sheets of waxed paper you laid out earlier. Now ain't ya glad you did that? I usually use two spoons, one to scoop and the other to push off the scoop spoon. The number of pralines you end up with will depend on how large you make your plops. Since I'm not the most expert candy maker by any means, my plops are usually fairly hefty, so I end up with about a dozen and a half.

Continue until you have used up all of the sugar mixture to create these lovely little pools of candy. They start off a bit dark, but as they set up, you'll see them begin to lighten up. See how this piece is already beginning to lighten?

Now ... how 'bout you go make some too!!

Recipe: Southern Pralines

©From the Kitchen of Deep South Dish
Prep time: 5 min |Cook time: 25+ min | Yield: About 1-1/2 to 3 dozen

  • 2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup light corn syrup
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups pecans

Combine first 5 ingredients in a heavy saucepan; mix well. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves; cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (232 degrees). Remove from heat; add vanilla and beat until creamy. Stir in pecans. Drop from a spoon onto waxed paper; let stand until firm.

Makes about 1-1/2 to 3 dozen, depending on how large you make 'em!

Coconut Pecan Pralines: Prepare as above, increasing butter to a full stick (1/2 cup) and combining 2 cups of sweetened, shredded coconut with the pecans, and adding the mixture in with the vanilla. Remove from heat and set aside to cool slightly and thicken, then drop on wax paper.


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