Pecan Pralines

Among the best known home-made candies, pralines have become a symbol of hospitality in much of the southern United States, particularly New Orleans. Throughout most of the South, the name is pronounced PRAY-leen, but in New Orleans, the common pronunciation is PRAH-leen.

Traditional pralines are made using two much beloved flavors in that part of the country: brown sugar and pecans. While this is the classic rendition, variations are not uncommon using other nuts and flavor profiles. At first glance, it would be easy to confuse pralines for cookies; both have the same general appearance. Make no mistake, however: Pralines are candies made by cooking sugar with dairy and nuts, not flour-based baked goods.

What’s in It?

SUGAR

Brown sugar is nearly always used, but pralines may also contain granulated white sugar.

DAIRY PRODUCT

Milk, cream, and butter are used for flavor and to add fat to the candy.

NUTS

The nuts used in pralines should be unsalted and must be toasted before using them, as they will not toast during the cooking process. Pecans are the most common variety of nut used.

SALT

As in most nut confections, salt is added to complement the flavor.

FLAVORING

The most common flavoring added to pralines is vanilla extract, but others such as coffee extract or cocoa powder may also be added.

How it’s Made

Like all sugar-based confections, making pralines begins by boiling the ingredients to remove water and concentrate the sugar content. The toasted nuts are included right in the boiling batch. After boiling, the mixture is cooled and stirred. The amount of stirring is critical: too little, and the candies will have a sugary texture; too much, and the batch will turn hard in the saucepan.

  1. Combine the sugars and dairy product and cook, stirring constantly. Keeping the bottom of the saucepan clean will prevent scorching.
  2. Add the toasted nuts at the specified temperature. The nuts must be toasted; they will not toast during the moist cooking process.
  3. Cook to the desired temperature. Accuracy counts! Use a good thermometer and monitor it closely.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the salt and flavoring. Flavor nuances can be lost if the flavoring is cooked with the batch.
  5. Allow to cool undisturbed to 212°F. Stirring before this temperature causes a sugary texture in the finished pralines.
  6. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Stirring at this point causes the sugar to begin to crystallize. Stir only until the mixture begins to look creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

How it’s Formed

Scooping pralinesPralines are always scooped or spooned out onto paper or a tray. They may be flat, mounded, or somewhere in between. It is important to work quickly when scooping, as the sugar continues to crystallize while you are working. If the batch becomes too stiff to scoop, return it to the heat, stirring while heating, until it returns to a workable texture. In extreme cases, a few tablespoons of milk can be added while heating to help soften the batch.

How it’s Stored

Pralines are never stored for long; they are best eaten while fresh. Although they are not perishable, they tend to dry out in storage, losing quality. When storage is necessary, a tightly sealed container at room temperature is the optimum method. Like other confections, it is possible to freeze pralines, but they must be in an airtight container and allowed to return to room temperature while still sealed to prevent damage from condensation.

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All About Pralines

Pecan Pralines
Among the best known home-made candies, pralines have become a symbol of hospitality in much of the southern United States, particularly New Orleans. Throughout most of the South, the name is pronounced PRAY-leen, but in New Orleans, the common pronunciation is PRAH-leen. Traditional pralines are made using two much beloved flavors in that part of the country: brown sugar and pecans. While this is the classic rendition, variations are not uncommon using other nuts and flavor profiles. At first glance, it would be easy to confuse pralines for cookies; both have the same general appearance. Make no mistake, however: Pralines are candies made by cooking sugar with dairy and nuts, not flour-based baked goods.

What’s in It?

SUGAR Brown sugar is nearly always used, but pralines may also contain granulated white sugar. DAIRY PRODUCT Milk, cream, and butter are used for flavor and to add fat to the candy. NUTS The nuts used in pralines should be unsalted and must be toasted before using them, as they will not toast during the cooking process. Pecans are the most common variety of nut used. SALT As in most nut confections, salt is added to complement the flavor. FLAVORING The most common flavoring added to pralines is vanilla extract, but others such as coffee extract or cocoa powder may also be added.

How it’s Made

Like all sugar-based confections, making pralines begins by boiling the ingredients to remove water and concentrate the sugar content. The toasted nuts are included right in the boiling batch. After boiling, the mixture is cooled and stirred. The amount of stirring is critical: too little, and the candies will have a sugary texture; too much, and the batch will turn hard in the saucepan.
  1. Combine the sugars and dairy product and cook, stirring constantly. Keeping the bottom of the saucepan clean will prevent scorching.
  2. Add the toasted nuts at the specified temperature. The nuts must be toasted; they will not toast during the moist cooking process.
  3. Cook to the desired temperature. Accuracy counts! Use a good thermometer and monitor it closely.
  4. Remove from the heat and add the salt and flavoring. Flavor nuances can be lost if the flavoring is cooked with the batch.
  5. Allow to cool undisturbed to 212°F. Stirring before this temperature causes a sugary texture in the finished pralines.
  6. Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Stirring at this point causes the sugar to begin to crystallize. Stir only until the mixture begins to look creamy, 1 to 2 minutes.

How it’s Formed

Scooping pralinesPralines are always scooped or spooned out onto paper or a tray. They may be flat, mounded, or somewhere in between. It is important to work quickly when scooping, as the sugar continues to crystallize while you are working. If the batch becomes too stiff to scoop, return it to the heat, stirring while heating, until it returns to a workable texture. In extreme cases, a few tablespoons of milk can be added while heating to help soften the batch.

How it’s Stored

Pralines are never stored for long; they are best eaten while fresh. Although they are not perishable, they tend to dry out in storage, losing quality. When storage is necessary, a tightly sealed container at room temperature is the optimum method. Like other confections, it is possible to freeze pralines, but they must be in an airtight container and allowed to return to room temperature while still sealed to prevent damage from condensation.

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