Pecan Pralines – southern comforts

Who’d have thought it? – German Christmas cookies in the Deep South?

Years ago I had the opportunity to take a day’s cookery course in the French Quarter in New Orleans. What a wonderful way to spend a day ! Recently I found the recipe they gave me for Pralines and so tried to recreate them in my kitchen. After a couple of misses ( the mixture was too thick – add more milk!!) I actually produced something which was delicious and very more-ish !!

Ingredients

340 grams white sugar

170 grams soft brown sugar

1/4 pt milk

86 g butter

340 g lightly toasted and chopped pecans ( place in a hot oven for 15 mins to toast)

1 tbsp vanilla

Equipment

1 large saucepan

3 baking trays lined with non-stick parchment

1 sugar thermometer ( preferably one which clips onto the side of a pan)

2 large spoons

Method

1.Set the oven to 275 º ( (130 degrees C). Place the pecans on a baking tray and bake for e25 mins. until they are fragrant.  remove from oven – allow to cool, then chop into small pieces.

2. Combine all ingredients – including the pecans in a large pan and bring to the boil. Clip the sugar thermometer onto the side of the pan or keep it to hand to check the temperature.

3. Stir constantly while the mixture is boiling, Stir until the mixture becomes thick and cloudy. The pecans will stay suspended at this stage.

4. When it reaches ‘softball stage’ ( 238-240F – 118 C degrees) – remove the pan from the heat. I wouldn’t recommend doing this without a sugar thermometer as it is so accurate – however if you don’t have one,  the way to test ‘softball’  is to drop a small spoonful of mix into a glass of cold water – it will stick to the side if it is the right consistency. Then remove carefully with a spoon – it should form a ball quite easily.

5. Lift the pan off the heat and spoon out the mix onto prepared sheets. You could produce between 20 and 40 Pralines depending on the size you choose. Small is probably better as they are very sweet indeed!

6. Allow them to cool on the tray before lifting them onto a metal drying rack with a spatula.

To store

Wrap each praline in a piece of non-stick parchment and then place side by side in a sealed plastic container. The pralines will stay fresh for at least two weeks.

Pack them prettily and give them as presents – they are heady vanilla-sugar combos but are delicious !

You could use almonds in place of pecans if they are difficult to find – I believe the original French cooks used almonds originally.

Screw up ! If you let the mixture get too thick – remove from the heat – add some milk and stir it in before bringing back to boil again ! It’s certainly worth a try ! it worked for me !

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