The Lexingtonienne

February10th

3 Comments

Tomayto, tomahto. Nee-ther, neye-ther. Prah-leen, pray-leen?

New Orleans Pralines

You can pronounce “tomato” and “neither” however you like.

New Orleans Pralines

New Orleans Pralines

But I can actually set the record straight on “praline.”

New Orleans Pralines

New Orleans Pralines

The patty of grainy, fudge-y pecan candy that hails from New Orleans and is frequently spotted throughout the sweet South is pronounced PRAH-leen.

New Orleans Pralines

New Orleans Pralines

The French, on the other hand, are the makers of PRAY-leen, which is a nut brittle (the stuff you find in pralines and cream ice cream).

New Orleans Pralines

New Orleans Pralines

Isn’t it nice to have that settled?

New Orleans Pralines

In honor of Mardi Gras, I thought I’d make some fine New Orleans prah-leens, a perfect follower to Crock Pot Gumbo and Veggie Succotash.

New Orleans Pralines

The only problem is that I am no Willy Wonka. I have ZERO candy-making experience. But – armed with the candy thermometer we received as a wedding gift 5 years ago and which was still lying pristine in the box – I decided to brave a new frontier. Everything was going well…

New Orleans Pralines

 … and then THIS happened:

New Orleans Pralines

I wasn’t sure what to do, so I took my wooden spoon (even though the instruction at this stage is DO NOT STIR), and gently escorted the frothing mixture away from the rim of the pan.

New Orleans Pralines

For all I know, an experienced candy maker might tell you that such a move is the kiss of death. However, it worked.

New Orleans Pralines

From there, things went quite smoothly…

New Orleans Pralines

candy thermometer

Pecans for Pralines

 … until I did not stir the praline mixture (once removed from the heat) quite long enough…

New Orleans Pralines

… and my first couple of “pralines” looked like this. FYI, this is WRONG:

New Orleans Pralines

So I stirred the praline mixture a few seconds more, at which point it thickened up and became opaque (per the recipe) in a manner so obvious, it was as if it were saying, “Honey, I’m home!” The rest of my pralines turned out the correct way, which should look about like THIS:

New Orleans Pralines

In spite of it being my first time making candy — and in spite of a couple of uncertain moments — these pralines turned out buttery, perfectly caramel-y, fudge-like, and melt-in-your-mouth amazing.

New Orleans Pralines

So, even if you have never made candy before either, get your gumbo and your succotash going, turn on the episode of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills where they play “When the Saints Go Marching In” in David Foster’s living room, and whip up some of these PRAH-LEENS. The good times are aollin’.

New Orleans Pralines

NEW ORLEANS PRALINES (pdf)
Lightly adapted from the Joy of Cooking
Makes 24 pralines

Note that you will need:
a candy thermometer
wax paper or parchment paper

  • 2 C pecans (whole or in pieces)
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C packed light brown sugar
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened and cut into small chunks
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven or toaster oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with foil, spread pecans into a single layer, and toast – stirring frequently – until very lightly browned and just becoming fragrant. This will only take a few minutes. (Tip: Watch them the whole time… I have burned pecans too many times to count.)

Line 2 baking sheets with wax or parchment paper.

In a large, heavy saucepan with high sides, combine sugar, brown sugar, buttermilk, baking soda, and salt. Stir over low heat with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved. Use a pastry brush dipped in warm water to brush down the sides of the pan. (This will dissolve any sugar that gets on the sides from stirring and will prevent it from forming hard crystals).

Add butter and stir until it is completely melted. Increase heat to medium and attach a warmed* candy thermometer to the saucepan. Cook without stirring until the temperature reaches 236 degrees (the “soft-ball” stage).

Remove from heat and quickly stir in toasted pecans and vanilla extract. Beat with a wooden spoon for about 1-2 minutes, or until mixture thickens and becomes opaque. (You’ll know when you get there.)

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto the lined baking sheet. Use another spoon to help scoop the mixture – which will be thick and sticky – off the tablespoon. (Do NOT use your finger! Remember, that mixture is 236 degrees.)

Let the pralines stand for about 30 minutes until they are completely cool. Store between layers of wax or parchment paper in Tupperware for up to several days.

*You can “preheat” the candy thermometer by immersing it in warm water for a minute. Be sure to wipe the water off of it before you put it in the pan.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Hannah

3 Comments

  • Comment by Maggie — February 11, 2013 @ 11:45 am

    Save some for the in laws……see you tomorrow!!!!

  • Comment by Hannilou — February 11, 2013 @ 4:13 pm

    “Save some”? HA! I made these BECAUSE you’re coming. So you’re going to have to eat them all up whether you want to or not! 😉

  • Comment by Jen — February 11, 2013 @ 6:19 pm

    Awesome!! I love making pralines. I’m going to be making this with chopped PEEEE-CANS. Not PEEE-KHANS. LOL Right?!?

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