4.18.2012

Pecan Pralines

A BAKER'S DOZEN: 13 TRIED AND TRUE TREATS FROM MY GRANDMOTHER'S KITCHEN, DAY 2

I’ve been enjoying my grandmother’s pecan pralines for years, but this was the first time I tried my hand at them – and lo and behold, success! The recipe is great in and of itself, but I love that it comes from an old New Orleans newspaper clipping, that the pecans are referred to as “pecan meats,” and that the recipe is credited simply to “the Ursuline Nuns.”

There are many competing stories on the origins of pralines, but according to one, it was the Ursuline Nuns who brought them over from France when they came to New Orleans in 1727. The original praline was actually made with almonds, though these were ultimately replaced by the more abundant Louisiana pecans. Cream was added to a simple base of caramelized sugar, and the praline transformed into the rich, dreamy, pecan-studded discs we see today.

If you haven’t yet tried pralines, you must. And if you haven’t made them, you must! Candy always intimidates me, but these were much easier than I’d anticipated and the payoff is so, so worth the effort. The taste is like a luxurious cross between fudge and caramel — each bite just melts in your mouth. And while I don’t think sea salt was really in vogue in the 18th century, I have to say, it goes pretty well atop these sweet little pralines.

A couple notes on the recipe: Like most recipes with a short ingredient list, the quality of the ingredients really makes a difference in the finished product. My grandmother swears by Joe C. Williams pecans and orders them every year, freezing whatever she doesn’t use right away. Though not at all necessary, you may also choose to toast the pecans before getting started to really bring out their flavor.

Pecan Pralines
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Recipe type: Desserts
Author: Adapted from an old newspaper clipping, credited to “the Ursuline Nuns”
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 15 mins
Total time: 25 mins
Serves: 15-20
A Southern classic that melts in your mouth. My grandmother cautions: never make these on a rainy day!
Ingredients
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • optional: 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • sea salt, for sprinkling
Instructions
  1. Optional step: Toast the pecans. Place pecan halves on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 300°F for 6 minutes, turning once. Set aside and allow to cool.
  2. Have a piece of parchment paper or a well-greased surface at-the-ready. Combine the sugars, cream and butter in a heavy saucepan. Stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, cook the mixture over medium to medium-high heat until it reaches the soft ball stage, 238 – 240°F on a candy thermometer (this should take 20-25 minutes). Immediately remove pan from heat; add pecans and vanilla extract (if using). Stir continuously until the mixture is somewhat thickened and creamy, but has not entirely lost its gloss (1-2 minutes). Working quickly, drop mixture by tablespoons, 2 inches apart, onto parchment paper or a well-greased surface. Sprinkle with sea salt, and allow to cool.
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Comments

  • My neighbor made the best pecan pralines every Christmas. Unfortunately he passed away this year, but maybe I’ll have to carry on the tradition for him :D

    • Kathryn

      Adrienne, that’s a sweet idea and I think these would make great gifts for people!

  • Renee

    The first time I tasted pralines was in New Orleans at a shop that sold nothing BUT pralines in varied flavors in a small shop by the river. Your recipe conjured that memory. Yum! Mouth is watering right now…..

    • Kathryn

      Oh wow! I can’t even begin to imagine a whole shop filled with pralines… sounds amazing!

  • The pralines look amazing! I’ve never made them but your recipe looks doable. I adore family recipes, they are always the best!

    • Kathryn

      Oh, it is totally doable. Family recipes do seem to be the best, don’t they?! You know they have to be pretty good if they get made over and over again :)

  • lynn

    may I have pecan praline recipes, too.

  • Debbie

    I live in New Orleans and love walking past the shops in the Quarter where the sweet smell of pralines hang in the air. Tho my recipe is a little different your grandma is right…the humidity will not let them turn into the firm, creamy confection we love BUT also and I don’t know why but as when making fudge, always use a wooden spoon thru the entire process. I’ve tried with metal but they don’t always “turn”. With a wooden spoon, they always do. Also, if you put the parchment paper on top of a few layers of newspaper it helps with the heat. Just some helpful tips from a praline cook myself. : )

    • Kathryn

      Debbie, thanks for these great tips! It’s nice to get some insight from someone who else who has made pralines many times before. And lucky you, having them so close by in the French Quarter! I haven’t visited in a while, but the next time I do I will definitely have to buy some pralines (and beignets, of course!).

  • Anna

    Easy to make but I think they need more flavor and less time stirring to cool next time

  • Valerie

    I’m originally from Louisiana and pralines are my absolute favorite candy. However, I’ve never been successful making the candy. I can’t wait to try your grandmother’s recipe. Hopefully, I’ll have better luck this time:)

  • [...] The recipe I used can be found here. [...]

  • [...] Desserts: beignets + pralines [...]

  • Joann

    I have a question I don’t generally make a lot of candy etc that has to use a candy thermometer. I made this recipe and it has set very grainy.. like the sugar hadn’t dissolved and it did. I stirred it for the recommended time used my thermometer .. Def won’t be sharing this batch. Any suggestions on what I did or din’t do right?

  • Allison

    Same here….grainy but looks right. Temp got to 240 in less than 20 min….do I need to boil lower and longer ?

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