It is Mardi Gras week and pecan pralines are about as southern as it gets.
When I was living in Charleston, I used to have a job selling seats on horse drawn carriage tours. It was mind-numbingly boring, but it paid for beers and chicken sandwiches at Wild Wings. Anyway, next to my booth was a candy store that made pecan pralines all day long and the smell was intoxicating. It taunted me for 8 hours at a time. Okay, maybe it paid for beers, chicken sandwiches, and pecan pralines. The girls that worked in the candy store used to stand outside and hand out samples, anyone that walked by and took one was a goner. They all went into the store and came out with a praline in hand. There are very few things that I make that bring me back to a place and time like these pralines do. I took a bite and was immediately back on Market Street.
Pralines are not hard to make, but with candy-making, you have to follow the directions exactly. You can’t start these and walk off to check your email. You need to babysit the pot because the sugar needs to reach a specific temperature in order for the candy to harden properly. It is also smart to not make these on a really humid day. They can get grainy if it is too humid. Which blows my mind that the pralines that they make in Charleston and New Orleans are so smooth. They are the most humid places I have ever been.
Also, you must use a candy thermometer. I use a high quality digital thermometer but I have made many candies using a cheap one that you get at the grocery store. Be sure to calibrate it to make sure that it reads correctly. 9 times out of 10, if your candy doesn’t work it is because your temps were off.
2 cups pecan halves and pieces
3 cups light brown sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup butter
2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
Spread the pecans out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until toasted. Cool completely. Line two baking sheets with parchment or waxed paper. Set them aside.
Add the brown sugar, cream, butter, and corn syrup to a heavy bottomed Dutch oven.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
Boil until a candy thermometer reaches 236 degrees (soft ball stage).
Take the sugar off the heat and let cool until the thermometer reaches 150 degrees. This takes about 15 to 20 minutes.
Stir in vanilla and salt.
Stir constantly for one to two minutes or until it begins to lose its gloss.
Working quickly, drop onto parchment lined baking sheets. Let cool until they are firm, 10 to 15 minutes.
Thank you to Ballard Designs for providing me these gorgeous serving pieces to celebrate Mardi Gras. They were gifted to me, but all opinions are my own. You can find the tea glasses and tray on the Ballard Designs website.