Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Pralines & Do you know what it means?

The Confection: Pecan Pralines 
An old Louisiana family recipe passed down from my great-great aunt

Ingredients:
3 cups granulated sugar
2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup butter
1 ¼ cup  half & half or cream
½ teaspoon salt
 2 tsp. flavor: Vanilla, or Almond or Rum — as long as it is real
About 2 ½ cups chopped pecans — more or less to taste

Recommended equipment: 8 quart or larger nonstick stock pot, candy thermometer, nonstick jelly roll pan, parchment or wax paper.
Line nonstick jelly roll pan with parchment paper or wax paper. 
In nonstick stockpot, melt butter on low to medium heat until butter is melted. 
Next, add granulated sugar and stir until sugar is melted.  
Then, add and blend in the brown sugar.  Add one ingredient in at a time. 
Mix in the cream and stir until blended. Add the salt and stir the mixture until blended. 
Continue stirring.
Raise the stove temperature to high to bring the mixture to a boil, stop stirring when boiling is reached.  
When the mixture comes to a rolling boil, lower the stove temperature to medium high and maintain a rolling boil.
Use your candy thermometer to track the temperature of the cooking temperature of the candy mixture.  
Do not let the thermometer touch the bottom of the pot. 
If the thermometer clips to the side, detach it every few minutes to check the temperature at the center of the pot. 
Stop cooking the candy mixture.  
Remove the candy from the heat when it reaches a temperature of 239 degrees F.  
To check for doneness: plop one drop of candy mixture into a cup of cold water and see if it forms into soft round ball.
While the candy mixture is still boiling, but off the heat source, stir in the flavor extract of choice, and stir in the pecans.
Pour candy mixture into lined jelly roll pan and spread into rectangle.  
Allow to set, and nearly cool. 
Cut into squares and let completely cool.

Photo by Robert Giglio

The Story: Sending a little love from New Orleans
Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans?

It’s no secret that a lot of Louisiana’s famous dishes hail from France. But when the recipes immigrated to Louisiana, a lot of them assimilated to delta terrain. 

Pralines are a perfect example of such adaptation.  This French confection of sugar and nuts was originally created with almonds. When the dish settled in America, by way of New Orleans, plentiful pecans took the place of sparse almonds.

New Orleans still prides itself in the production of pecan pralines (not prayleens), while other places in the world have also seen the recipe evolve to fit their location — most notably Belgium where the candy is a decadent chocolate. 

You don’t have to be a confectioner to make a mean New Orleans praline.  In fact, my family has a pretty great pecan praline recipe (above) that has a special place in our hearts.

My grandpa's care package had pictures and pralines.

When my grandfather was serving a very long tour in Korea, quite far from home, his new bride would send sweet Louisiana pralines. These candied treats traveled so well that even after crossing an ocean they still tasted and smelled like home.
When my mother was young, she would bake these sheet pralines for loved ones that were far away but wanted a little taste of New Orleans.        
And, when my cousin in San Antonio graduated from high school earlier this month, we brought some Louisiana with us to Texas in the form of homemade pralines.    
Whenever someone misses New Orleans, we send some pralines. 


Check out this post on National Geographic's Daily News blog.

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