A New Orleans classic sweet treat, pralines are creamy, nutty and so very delicious. While making candy seems difficult, if you have an accurate candy thermometer, a free afternoon, and plenty of patience, you may have success making a batch of pralines with our easy-to-follow recipe.
Food historians believe that the praline was brought to North America by a group of nuns between 1725 and 1730. These nuns took charge of the educations of groups of young French women who were sent over from Europe to marry colonists in the New World. As a part of their education, the nuns taught the young women candy-making.
Because the European recipes for praline candy used ingredients that were harder to find in Louisiana, the nuns had to get creative. They used native pecans instead of almonds, and over time, the recipes were changed and adapted to become what we now call a praline.
A distinctly southern recipe, pralines are a New Orleans specialty. Similar to fudge, pralines are loaded with pecans and have a smooth, buttery flavor. While candy making can be intimidating, why not try your hand at making a batch of Pralines, using our step-by-step recipe?
- 1½ cups Granulated Sugar
- 1½ cups Packed Brown Sugar
- 1 cup Evaporated Milk
- ¼ cup Butter
- 2 cups Pecan Halves
- 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the pecans on a small baking sheet and put them in the oven. Toast the pecans for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring every 3 to 5 minutes until they are light golden brown and fragrant. Set the pecans aside to cool completely.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Don’t use waxed paper because the hot candy mixture will cause the wax on the paper to melt into the candy.
Put the granulated sugar and the brown sugar in a 2 or 3 quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan.
Pour the evaporated milk into the pan and stir. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently. Use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature of the mixture. It will come to a boil and bubble for a while.
Then, the temperature will slowly rise. When the temperature reaches about 228 degrees, remove the pan from the heat and add the butter and the pecans, stirring until the butter is melted and the pecans are thoroughly combined into the mixture.
Return the pot to the stovetop and heat it again over medium heat until the temperature reaches 232 degrees.
Remove the pan from the heat and add the vanilla, stirring to combine.
Take the thermometer from the pan and stir the mixture with a wooden spoon, beating it for 1 to 2 minutes. The mixture will start to get thicker and become less glossy.
Working quickly, drop heaping tablespoon-sized globs of the pecan mixture on the parchment paper. Let the candy sit out at room temperature until it is completely cool. Store in an airtight container.
Recipes for this classic sweet treat vary somewhat, but what is consistent is that pralines include pecans, sugar, milk, and butter. The mixture is cooked over medium heat and, as the sugar is heated, chemical magic occurs. The sugar changes its state, and, when the mixture cools, it turns into a solid, creamy, nutty piece of candy.
Making candy is a great way to make a homemade gift for friends and family members, especially around the holidays. Your kid’s school teachers will probably love getting a dozen or so pralines in a fancy tin box at Christmastime.
One thing that makes candy-making a great wintertime project is that candy-making often works better on days when the humidity is low. In fact, humid days are not great for candy making since the humidity can affect the cooking of the sugar syrup. Wait until a dry day to make pralines.
If you have never made candy before, you should try it. Candy-making does take careful attention to detail, but if you are attentive, you should be successful. One piece of equipment that you will definitely need is a candy thermometer.
The candy thermometer takes the guesswork out of making candy. You can precisely know what stage your sugar mixture has reached just by reading the numbers on the thermometer.
Candy-making is not something that you should attempt on a day that is full of distractions. It takes attentiveness. You don’t need to turn away from the stove to throw in a load of laundry or to go answer the door.
Candy-making needs to happen when you have at least an hour of free, uninterrupted time to focus on this project. If you have small children, you probably should wait to do this when they are in bed or when your partner is home to keep up with them. Especially given that you will be cooking sugar syrup to high, dangerous temperatures, you don’t want to have to tend your kids in the middle of this recipe.
If an emergency occurs, and you have to step away from the stove, turn off the eye of the stove and take the pan off of the heat until you can come back and refocus on your candy-making project.
Sometimes candy making will not go well, and that is understandably frustrating. There are times when even experienced candy makers will have sticky toffee, fudge that won’t set up, or pralines that are grainy in texture. However, don’t give up. It is pretty normal to have a few failures in candy-making when you are first starting out. Just keep trying.
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