Monday, July 12, 2010

Pralines (prä-lēns vs. prā-lēns)

A group of us had a discussion Memorial Day weekend about the pronunciation of these wonderful candies.  Since then, they have been stuck in my head.  I call them praw-leens.  I was the only one in the car who pronounced them that way.  Turns out, that is not surprising since, according to Wikkipedia, most of Alabama and Georgia pronounce them pray-leens.  What do you call them?

Julie and I (once again) tried 2 recipes.  One is Paula Dean's recipe and the other I found on Food Network added by a member.  They were fairly different so we tried to get a tasting of two methods. You will find out Paula did not disappoint.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons dark corn syrup
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups pecan halves

(I had to add this picture because it was too appropriate.  Lance and Julie were gifted this cookbook on their wedding. How appropriate?!)

We used a Le Creuset dish which worked extremely well.  The recipe calls for a heavy 2-quart saucepan. We buttered the sides of the dish and emptied the sugar, salt, and corn syrup, milk, and butter into the pan. 

Stir mixture constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon* until the sugars have dissolved and mixture comes to a boil. 

*We found it interesting they insisted we use a wooden spoon.  So what did we do? We googled it.  Pay a visit to this site if you would like to learn more.  The wooden spoon worked well for us!
Continue to cook to a 'soft ball' stage, approximately 236 degrees F on a candy thermometer. My candy thermometer worked AMAZING.  It is from Williams Sonoma and I highly recommend it.  It will be used many times to come.  THANK YOU JULIE AND LANCE!

COLD WATER TEST:  At this point, you can do a cold water test.  You drip the praline mixture into a cold glass of water. The ball of candy will flatten when you take it out of the water. It worked out for us...on the first try!

Remove from heat and allow to cool for 10 minutes.  After those minutes stir in the vanilla and pecans. We learned 10 minutes should be the max.  You should have everything laid out and ready to rock.  The mixture is the smoothest when it is right out of the dish.  As it hardens it becomes crumbly. Work fast...2 people helps.  We suggest using a tablespoon to scoop it out and another to scrape it off the spoon.  Otherwise you may lick your fingers due to pain and then end up with a burned tongue as well (ahhem). :)

The mixture yields about 18 pralines when they are made a tablespoon size.  We even toyed with the idea of using pecan pieces because the large size of the halved pecans made the lumps of candy larger than we thought necessary.

I am adding this on here for 'kicks."  The Paula recipe was by far our favorite.  It was more creamy and tasted better to us both.  I am not a huge candy person (unless we are talking chocolate) but the Paula Deen recipe was marvelous even to me!  This one, however, had wonderful ratings so it may be prefered by some.  And as Julie pointed out, the ingredients are ones you are most likely to have 'on hand' at any given moment.  You would have to purchse ingredients for the Paula Deen recipe.

This recipe uses half and half which I learned is the same as the recipes that call for 'light cream.' There are recipes that use heavy cream as well.  I am so stuck on the first recipe I may never venture out beyond it.


2 cups granulated sugar
1 cups half-and-half
1/3 stick butter
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups whole pecans
Combine all ingredients except the pecans in a heavy saucepan. Over medium heat stir mixture until it comes to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and continue to stir. Spoon mixture up on sides of pan to melt any sugar that hasn't melted.  (It didn't get dark until the very end so be patient!)

Cook until mixture reaches 238 to 241 degrees F on a candy thermometer or soft ball stage. Stir in the pecans. Remove from heat. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and becomes creamy and cloudy. Drop onto parchment paper, buttered pan or buttered marble slab, using a spoon or ice cream scoop. Let cool.

The finished results. (I am sad I didn't get the focus correct.  My new lense came in today so we will have to do something again soon to test it!)