Pecan Pralines

3 pecan pralines on a plate


Makes about 3 dozen


3/8 pound (1½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
½ cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups pecan halves
2 tablespoons vanilla extract

How To Prepare

The trickiest part about making pralines is judging the precise moment they are done, then spooning them out quickly so they will harden with just the right texture. To judge doneness, use one or more of the following guides:

1. Candy thermometer will read 240 degrees.
2. When done, the batter will begin forming distinct threads on the sides or bottom of the pan.
3. Near the end of the cooking time, make a test praline every few seconds: The early test pralines will be somewhat runny, very shiny and somewhat translucent. The ideal praline will have progressed past that stage--it will not be runny and will be less shiny. When cooked it will be opaque, lusterless and crumbly instead of chewy.
4. Near the end of the cooking time, drizzle spoonfuls of the mixture across the pan's surface. When ready the mixture will form a neat thread across the surface.

Assemble all ingredients and utensils before starting to cook. You'll need a large heavy-bottomed aluminum pot or skillet with deep sides, a long-handled metal whisk or spoon, 2 large spoons or an ice cream scoop with a manual release, and a lightly buttered cookie sheet. Be careful not to get any of the mixture on your skin, as it sticks and can cause serious burns.

Melt the butter in the pot over high heat. As soon as it's melted, add the sugars and cream. Cook 1 minute, whisking constantly. Add the milk and chopped pecans. Cook 4 minutes more, whisking constantly. Reduce the heat to medium and continue cooking and whisking for 5 minutes. Add the pecan halves and vanilla and continue whisking and cooking until done, about 15 to 20 minutes longer (see notes above on tests for doneness). If the mixture starts to smoke toward the end of cooking, lower the heat. Remove the pan from the heat. Quickly and carefully drop the batter onto the cookie sheet by spoonfuls using the second spoon to scoop the batter off the first (or use ice cream scoop). Each praline should form a 2-inch patty. Cool and store in an airtight container, or wrap each praline in plastic wrap or foil.

An easy way to clean the pot and utensils is to boil water in the pot with the utensils in it. This will melt the batter off.

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