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Monday, June 01, 2009

New Orleans Pralines


You didn’t think I forgot I had a blog, did you?  Well, I almost did.  With all the trips and the non-piggie Flu I picked up along the way, I’ve been neglecting the space here for quite a while.  (If you’re following me on Twitter you’ve heard it all before.)  Sorry.  But I’m back, and I brought you a pretty cool souvenir from the road, an amazing (and amazingly easy) recipe for true New Orleans pralines.  For me, one of the best things about traveling is learning how to cook local specialties so that I can bring that taste home with me and recreate it when I want to.  So imagine my delight when Ms.Linda and her husband Peter (my friend Josh's dad) invited me over to their place to make pralines with them.

First, we must get something straight.  I don’t care where you are in -or even out- of the country, you’ll need to learn how to pronounce the word right - and by ‘right’ I meant the way they do in New Orleans.  Repeat after me.  PRAA-leans.  Not praa-LEANS, or PRAY-leens.  And definitely not PRAA-lynes.  Got that?

Ok, now that we know how to pronounce it properly, it’s time I confess something.  This recipe makes textbook-perfect New Orleans pralines, yes, but it’s actually not from New Orleans!  Ms.Linda -she’s a proper Southern Lady so it’s Ms.Linda to you and me- said she got the recipe from “a Greyhound Man in Mississippi”.  I was hoping that she would say she got it from a man she met on a grayhound bus in Mississipi, wouldn't it be such a fun story?  Alas, no, she just got it from a man who worked there.

Still, the recipe makes pretty perfect New Orleans pralines, and I learned it when I was New Orleans, so it’s New Orleans Pralines to me.  (Oh, and, yes, if you bought any marmalade from my last batch on Etsy, you got some of these tucked into the box.)

The recipe is so easy you won't believe me until you try it yourself.  


1 12fl.oz. can of evaporated milk (1.5cups or 350ml)

7 Tablespoon (100 gr.) butter 

300 gr. brown sugar (1.5 cup)

300 gr. sugar (1.5 cup)

1 generous tablespoon of Corn syrup 

350gr broken pecans (3.5 cups)

1 t. vanilla extract 

(Before you start, set up an area in your kitchen where you can set the pralines as soon as the mixture is done.  If your countertop is heat resistant, you can just set down 3-4 large sheets of parchment paper.  If not, line three baking sheets with parchment paper and place them over trivets to protect your countertop.  Ms.Linda advices rubbing butter all over the parchment to prevent sticking, I don't do it when I made my last two batches and my pralines didn't stick, so, if I were you I wouldn't bother)


Place a large, heavy bottom pot over moderate heat, add butter to melt.  Add evaporated milk, brown sugar, white sugar, and corn syrup, turn the heat up and bring to a hard boil.  


Then, lower the heat and simmer for approx. 5 minutes or until a candy thermometer reaches 110C. 

Add pecans and vanilla extract and beat with a spatula about 3 more minutes until the pecans take on a light brown color. 




Keep stirring, it's very important to stir vigorously to incorporate air into the pralines at this stage.  You can see the pralines turning opaque as you stir.  I like to sprinkle a generous pinch of corse salt into the pralines at this stage - it's my own spin on this, but I like my desserts with a bit of salt.  You certainly don't need to.  


When the praline mixture is ready, move the pot over to the prepared area.  Scoop out one tablespoon of praline at a time and place each on top of the parchment lined countertop or cookie sheet.  Using two tablespoons here will help, scoop with one, and use the other to help push the thick praline mixture out onto the parchment.  Ms.Linda and her husband Peter have got this down to a science, she stirs, he pours, she scoops, he keeps the pot tilted to make it easier for her to reach the pralines.  It's quite useful to have an extra pair of hand in this operation, so, get your significant other off the couch!  They can lick the spoon afterwards. ;-)


Leave the finished pralines out on the parchment to cool down completely and set.  This might take anywhere from an hour to a few hours, depending on the humidity where you are.  When they are set, turning completely pale and opaque, use a small spatula to scoop each one up from the paper into an airtight container.


Here's Peter performing a crucial task of counting the final results.  This batch makes just over 40 pralines.  They keep well in an airtight container for a couple weeks.  Or so I was told.  I wouldn't know. My pralines are always gone long before.


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