Pralines are a classic candy from the American South. Typically, they're made with brown sugar and pecans, and they have a very distinctive texture: they're crunchy from the nuts, slightly crumbly, but also melt in your mouth as you eat them. They have been likened to a nutty fudge. Pralines are typically formed into small patties. While they most often are made with pecans, they can also be made with other nuts as well.
Chefs in New Orleans were primarily known for swapping pecans for almonds in their candy recipes. In other countries, it's common to find pralines that have other flavors added, like orange zest, chocolate, or coffee.
French settlers are responsible for bringing the recipe for pralines to Louisiana. In their new home settlers found sugar cane and pecans were both plentiful. In some parts of Louisiana, pralines are referred to as "pecan candy."
How Do I Make Pralines?
Individual praline recipes differ, but the basic technique is to combine sugar and a liquid (usually cream or milk) in a pot and boil it to a specific temperature. After boiling, other ingredients like nuts and flavorings are added, then the mixture is beaten just until it starts to set up. Once it thickens, the candy is dropped into patty shapes and left to set up. Click here for a full list of praline recipes, including variations like Cranberry Pralines.
If you do intend on making pralines at home, make sure you invest in a good candy thermometer.
By far, the most difficult part of making pralines is getting the perfect texture. The environment can contribute to this, so it's best not to attempt pralines on a day that's rainy, stormy, or very humid, the excess moisture in the air can wreak havoc on the praline's texture.
The other determining factor in the praline's texture is how long the candy is beaten before being formed into patties. Beat it too little, and the candies will be soft and runny. Beat it too much, and they'll be crystallized and grainy. But beat it just right, and you'll have magic on a plate! While the best route for making perfect pralines is just to practice, practice, practice, there is one trick to salvaging pralines that are in danger of crystallizing. At the end of the beating process, if you notice the candy starting to set up in the pan before you can scoop it all out, add a teaspoon of very hot water to the pan, and stir it in. The water should help loosen the candy and, if you work quickly, you can hopefully form all of the patties before it crystallizes again.
How Do You Pronounce Praline?
Chances are, if you ask 10 different people how to pronounce "praline," you'll get 10 different responses! It varies by region, but the most common pronunciations are PRAW-leen and PRAY-leen. But no matter how you choose to pronounce it, pralines are a delicious treat.