I believe that I have mentioned before that my grandmother was born and raised in Mississippi. So far south, in fact, that she has always joked that my great-grandmother would go to New Orleans just to buy a spool of thread. Yep, they were just that close to the Big Easy.
When I was 10, the whole family (with the exception of my poor father, who had to work) took a week-long vacation to New Orleans. My grandmother showed us the sites, took us to all of her favorite restaurants, and – of course – made sure we indulged in all of the foods famous to the city.
My most poignant memories of the trip (not including an accidental walk down Bourbon Street at 10 pm) include mountains of beignets at Cafe Du Monde (I clearly hit culinary nirvana early in life), being freaked out by my uncle trying to get my cousins and I to suck the juice out of the crawfish heads at brunch (my cousin Liz, who was 9 at the time, thought this was perhaps the best thing she had ever done), and watching pralines being made on big marble slabs at Aunt Sally’s.
So when I saw a recipe for Pecan Pralines in Joy the Baker’s cookbook, I knew immediately that I wanted to make them and send them to my grandmother for Mother’s Day.
Now, I have only faint memories of how Aunt Sally’s pralines actually tasted, and this recipe tasted wonderful to me, but I knew my grandmother would be a much tougher critic, having grown up eating pralines.
Folks, they passed the Grandmommie test. In fact, she told me later that she simply could not stop eating them. I’d call that one a success.
One last note: You will need a candy thermometer for this recipe. Don’t be freaked out by all of the “soft ball”/”hard ball”/”hard crack” candy-making terminology. Just find yourself a well-marked candy thermometer, watch your temperature closely and you will be fine. This is an easy-peasy candy recipe, that I promise.
- 1 cup packed brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 cups pecan halves
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Set aside.
- Place a medium saucepan with a candy thermometer over medium heat. Make sure the thermometer is not touching the bottom of the pan. Add everything except the pecans. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. When the mixture reaches 238 to 240 degrees, or the “soft ball” stage, remove the pan from the heat.
- Add in the pecans, stirring for about a minute or until the mixture cools just enough to spoon onto the prepared pans. Working quickly, using a tablespoon to generously spoon pralines onto the prepared pans. Ideally, the pecans will be piled on top of one another and the sugar will spread slightly. (If you allow your mixture to cool too much before portioning out, your candies will not spread as much, if at all, though they will still taste the same – they just might not look as pretty.)
- Allow candies to cool and harden at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before removing from pan. Pralines will keep, in an airtight container, for up to a week.