New Orleans Pecan Pralines – Food from the South

Today we are cooking up some Southern food, or Southern candy to be more precise.

New Orleans Pecan Pralines!! This is truly a great candy that when made right has a delicious, smooth, and creamy texture. Like divinity and fudge, the Pecan Praline can be a little finicky as there are many factors involved in nailing the recipe. I call this the triple “P”.

Patience, Practice, and Persistence! making Pecan Pralines is undoubtedly an emotional experience. The slow process of stirring as you watch watch the sugar syrup slowly change colors from a creamy white to a toffee like color can be taxing to the impatient but don’t rush the process. Your patience will pay off as the calm joy of finally hitting your desired temperature quickly turns into frantic panic of mixing in the rest of your ingredients as you try to hit that sweet spot to form the perfect praline.

So if you enjoy a challenge and you don’t mind failure then making the Pecan Praline is a perfect candy for you to try. I’ll be sharing a few pointers through this post so that hopefully it will increase the chances for your success, but with that being said experience is the best teacher.

Let’s get Nuts

Let’s start off by talking nuts. Originally the Pecan Praline wasn’t made out of Pecans. It was made out of caramel and almonds in France (17th century), and because almonds don’t grow so well in Louisiana Pecans were used instead. My point is that you can use just about whatever nut you want to make these candies. I’ve made these with almonds and even walnuts with great results. You can even go nut free and add rice puffed cereal if you want to.

I personally like to toast the nuts in this recipe. I find that the toasted nuts do add a nice elevated flavor and it reduces the moisture content in the nuts which adds a nice texture to the finished product. This is optional.

What Sugar should you use?

I like to use turbinado sugar (raw sugar) as it’s cheap and readily available, but you can use white refined sugar, light brown sugar, dark brown sugar, or any combination of the above mentioned. The darker sugars will produce a darker colored praline. The choice is yours as I’ve made this recipe with all of the above sugars with success and the one I liked the most was turbinado, for what it’s worth.

If you plan on using only refined white sugar then the addition of baking soda to the recipe will help increase the maillard reaction and help speed up the process of getting those beautiful caramel/toffee colors.

What milk should you use?

This is a question I get a lot when it comes to making pralines. The truth of the matter is that it really doesn’t matter as all milks will work for this recipe. With that being said different milks will produce different outcomes so I say experiment with the different options to see which one you prefer.

Heavy cream is a popular choice for making pralines. This will produce a very rich and creamy candy. I personally like using buttermilk as I like the overall creaminess and slight tang that it delivers in this candy. Evaporated milk is another popular choice as well.

I’ve made this candy with all of the above including half & half, goats milk, and whole milk. If you are the experimenting type, give them all a try and see which one suits your tastes. If you would rather not make 6 different batches of pralines then just stick with either buttermilk or cream, it’ll be fine.

10 Tips on Making the Perfect Pecan Praline

  • Make this candy on a nice day with low humidity. If the humidity is high, cook the pralines a few degrees (1 – 2) above your target.
  • Have all of your ingredients readily available and close by.
  • Don’t double this recipe. At least the first few times till you get the hang of itπŸ˜‰
  • Don’t try to speed the process up by increasing the heat during the cooking stage.
  • Don’t under mix or over mix πŸ˜…. Slow steady mixing at the beginning while the sugar melts is perfect then more frequent consistent stirring towards the end as the temperature starts to reach soft ball stage (Patience is key here)
  • Pay attention to your thermometer. I like to start checking for soft ball a little early so as to not overcook the mixture. Our goal is 135f – 137f.
  • Learn to read the syrup. As you get closer to soft ball stage the praline mixture
  • Once your praline mixture has finished cooking and your ready to start forming the candies, work quickly.
  • If you praline mixture starts to thicken to quickly (when you are forming your candies) add a few drops of warm water or warm milk to loosen the mixture up
  • If your Pralines end up with a grainy texture you can use a small amount of Corn Syrup in the recipe to help overcome this issue. This is not necessary, but it’s a great crutch if you are having troubles in the beginning.

Here are a few things you might find useful when making this recipe

I hope you enjoy this week’s video and recipe. If you give this a go be sure to let me know how your came out and if you have any questions ask away in the comment section below.

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New Orleans Pecan Pralines

Deliciously sweet and savory jerky with a pepper crust
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr
How much do you want to make? 12 pieces

Ingredients

OPTIONAL INGREDIENT

  • 1 tbsp light corn syrup not necessary, but helps reduce the chances of getting a grainy texture in the final product

Instructions

  • Toast pecans (or walnuts) in a preheated oven set to 350f (176c) till they start to take on a nice brown color and become aromatic. Roughly 8-12 minutes
  • Rough chop Pecans and set to the side.
  • In a stock pot combine the sugar, buttermilk, and the baking soda (if you plan on using light corn syrup you can add it at this point). Turn heat on a medium and stir frequently.
  • Continue stirring till the temperature of your mixture reaches 230f (110c). Check for soft ball by dropping some of your praline mixture in a glass of cool water. If the cooled mixture can be formed into a soft ball you can move on to the next step. If it can't continue stirring and cooking on a medium heat. Check again at 235f (113c).
  • Once you hit that soft ball stage cut the heat off and add the toasted pecans. Stir the mixture till the pecans are well incorporated.
  • Next add the frozen butter and vanilla. Continue to stir till the butter melts. Remove the pot from the stove and place on your countertop.
  • Stir vigorously till the praline mixture looses it's shiny quality and starts to thicken up (for me this takes 2-3 minutes). Once that happens spoon the mixture onto a silpat mat or parchment paper in small piles. Allow the candy to set up for 20 minutes before eating.

Tips For SUCESS

  • Make this candy on a nice cool day with low humidity. If the humidity is high, cook the pralines a few degrees above your target (1-2).
  • Have all of your ingredients readily available and close by.
  • Don't double this recipe. At least the first few times till you get the hang of itπŸ˜‰
  • Don't try to speed the process up by increasing the heat during the cooking stage.
  • Don't under mix or over mix πŸ˜…. Slow steady mixing at the beginning while the sugar melts is perfect then more frequent consistent stirring towards the end as the temperature starts to reach soft ball stage
  • Pay attention to your thermometer. I like to start checking for soft ball a little early so as to not overcook the mixture
  • Once your praline mixture has finished cooking and your ready to start forming the candies, work quickly.
  • If your Pralines end up with a grainy texture you can use a small amount of Corn Syrup in the recipe to help overcome this issue. This is not necessary, but it's a great crutch if you are having troubles in the beginning.

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