So I have a confession to make-I LOVE pralines! These melt in your mouth delicious nutty candies are addicting. Pralines can be found in convenience stores, supermarkets, and gift shops around New Orleans. There are several candy factories in the Big Easy where visitors can watch the simple, but fascinating, process by which sugar, cream, butter and nuts are united and transformed into pralines. There are so many variations of the traditional praline such as those flavored with shredded coconut, rum, vanilla, chocolate and peanut butter. I wanted to feature the traditional praline that started it all! Pralines were first created in the 1700′s by a French chef for the French diplomat Cesar du Plessis-Praslin. It was first created using from almonds that were coated with a cooked syrupy sugar. The praline sensation spread throughout most of the continent, people couldn’t get enough! When a New Orleanian businessman was visiting Paris he fell in love with the pralines. He brought some home and asked his head cook to replicate them. Plentiful pecans were substituted for the almonds and heavy cream was added to thicken the candy, creating what became known throughout the American South as the praline. Pralines have a creamy consistency similar to fudge and is equally addicting.
Yield: about 3 dozen
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
2 cups pecan pieces
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, melt butter. Add the cream and both sugars and continue cooking until the sugars are dissolved. Increase the heat to medium and simmer until the mixture reaches 240-250 degrees F, stirring occasionally. (If the mixture begins to crystallize you can add 2 more tablespoons of the cream and continue cooking until it loosens up)
Add the pecans, remove from heat and give the mixture a final gentle stir. Use a wooden spoon, portion about 2 tablespoons of the praline mixture onto the prepared baking sheet, spacing at least 1 inch between them. (If the mixture begins to crystallize and set up before you finish portioning all of the pralines, add an additional 2 tablespoons of cream to the saucepan and set the pan over medium heat until the mixture is creamy, then continue portioning the candies.) Cool for at least 30 minutes before transferring to an airtight container.