When summer heats up, nobody wants to bake, but your sweet tooth may still crave a sugary treat. That’s where pecan pralines come in. This Southern candy/cookie doesn’t require heating your home or RV oven. It’s quick to make on the stovetop and its melt-in-your-mouth goodness will make you a favorite at the RV park – assuming you share with neighbors!
Pralines (pronounced “pray-leens” or “prah-leens”) came to North America with French immigrants who settled in Louisiana, where both pecans and cane sugar were plentiful. Most food historians say pralines originated in France, where whole almonds were coated in caramelized sugar. Chefs grind the caramel-coated nuts into a powder called pralin to use in cakes, pastries and ice cream.
In Belgium, pralines are luxury chocolates (aka Belgian soft-centered chocolates, Belgian chocolate fondants or chocolate bonbons). They consist of soft, sometimes liquid, filling, made with combinations of hazelnuts, almonds, sugar, syrup and milk-based pastes in a chocolate shell.
American pralines are softer and creamier. During the 19th century, African-American cooks working in New Orleans kitchens substituted almonds or hazelnuts with local pecans and added cream to thicken, and American pralines were born. Classic Southern pralines combine sugar syrup and pecans with cream and resemble a cookie with the texture of fudge. In Louisiana, they’re sometimes called “pecan candy.”
Today, pralines come in many flavors, from coconut to sweet potato. However, try the original creamy and sweet flavor first.
Pralines are made in home kitchens throughout the South. You can also purchase them online. However, pralines are especially delicious when fresh (and wonderful warm from the stove). So make some of these easy treats yourself.
Southern Pecan Pralines
Do not double the recipe.
Prep beforehand. Once you start, don’t pause or stop. Measure all ingredients and have parchment paper or a Silpat sheet ready for hot pralines.
Use a large (4-quart) pot. The ingredients will bubble.
Don’t stop stirring. You want the sugar to form crystals. Stir constantly until the “pot talks,” and ingredients become thick and sugar crystals scrape against the sides.
- 3 cups chopped pecans
- 2 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/4 cup water
- 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Spread chopped pecans on baking sheet and toast in 350 F oven for about 5 minutes (until lightly browned).
- In saucepan, combine brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream, water, butter and salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, to 230 F. (Lower heat if mixture threatens to boil over.)
- Add pecans and cook (stirring constantly) to 236 F. Mixture should form a soft ball when dropped in cold water.
- Remove from the heat and add vanilla; let stand for about 5 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon until the mixture thickens, is slightly creamy and is less shiny.
- Use a tablespoon or cookie scoop to spoon the pralines onto parchment or waxed paper. If the mixture becomes grainy, heat and stir over medium heat for a few seconds.