Let’s figure out how to pronounce this little dessert. Although our Louisiana neighbors claim to have brought pralines to the South, we Texans changed the pronunciation and made it our own. Those Louisianans also claim that they changed the original French recipe by substituting pecans for almonds. Let us not forget, however, that the pecan tree is the state tree of Texas, by an official 1919 proclamation of our state legislature. In addition, Texas is the largest producer of native pecans. (OK, Georgia grows more pecans but theirs are hybrids.) We even have our own Texas Pecan Festival . All of this means that only Texans know the true and correct pronunciation of the word “praline.”
Just remember, in Texas, we “pray” we don’t have to “lean” over too far to see our Louisiana neighbors. The verdict? Pronounce this “pray-lean” not “praw-leen.” Now let’s get cooking!
Pralines are a candy of nuts surrounded by a firmed-up sugar syrup. We make it vegetarian by using organic sugars. You will need a candy thermometer and a wooden spoon and some healthy arm muscles. The candy thermometer will help you recognize when you have the correct melted sugar temperature and this is extremely important – it’s a chemistry thing. I am not sure why you need a wooden spoon, but all my old cook books stated this rule as if it were gospel. There are simply much more interesting rules in life to break, so let’s follow this one on faith. Strong arm muscles are always good.
Once mastered, these pintsized nuggets are easy to make. Eat them after filling up on TexMex food, offer them on your holiday dessert buffet, or just have a few at the end of a long day. You will feel better, instantly.
2 C pecan halves
1 C organic white sugar
1 C organic light brown sugar
½ t baking soda
3/4 C ½ and 1/2
4 T butter
1 t vanilla (or bourbon, if you are in a New Orleans mood)
- Put a Silpat or a large sheet of parchment paper on your countertop.
- Roast your pecan halves in a preheated 275º oven for about 15 minutes. Allow pecans to cool while you prepare the rest.
- Combine the sugars, baking soda, liquid, and butter in a large, heavy saucepan. Stirring gently (make this a stir, not a whisk – you do not want to add any little air bubbles), bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat enough to keep things at a low boil and continue to heat until the temperature reaches 238º – the soft ball stage. Use your thermometer – trust me on this one. Getting to the correct temperature may take some time, be patient. Remove liquid from heat and add vanilla and pecans.
- Stir mixture until pecans remain suspended and the melted sugars begin to thicken. Working quickly, drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper or Silpat. Once cool, you can wrap each candy in clear plastic wrap.