New Orleans pralines are different from their European ancestor in that the New Orleans variety uses pecans rather than almonds, and includes cream. Pecans were used because they were, and still are, plentiful. Cream was introduced as a thickener. Thus, the New Orleans pralines have a creamy consistency and are similar to fudge. They are generally made by cooking sugar, butter, cream, and pecans over a medium-high heat until the mixture reaches the soft ball stage. They are dropped by spoonfuls onto wax paper and left to cool. No Mardi Gras celebration would be complete without this delicious confection!
When I was growing up in the South, I learned to cook at a relatively young age. One of my memories of those early days was making Pralines from the recipe on the back of the box of the Domino Light Brown Sugar.
I remember that the recipe only called for light brown sugar, i.e., it didn’t have granulated sugar. It also called for a small amount of cream of tartar and used evaporated milk. The Pralines always turned out great!
I grew up pronouncing Pralines as “PRAY-leans”. I’ve also heard them pronounced as “PRAW-leans”, which is the way they are pronounced in New Orleans. Whatever the pronunciation, Pralines are a creamy, sugary treat chocked full of pecans (pronounced “puh-KAHNs”, not “PEE-cans”.)
I use the following ingredients for the New Orleans Pralines: Light brown sugar, whipping cream, corn syrup, salt, unsalted butter, toasted pecans, and vanilla extract.
Making the New Orleans Pralines
To make the Pralines, I started by adding the brown sugar, whipping cream, corn syrup and salt to a heavy 3-quart saucepan that was fitted with a digital candy thermometer.
I stirred the ingredients constantly over medium heat with a wooden spoon until the mixture started to boil. This took about 15 minutes. Once the mixture started to boil, I continued stirring it occasionally until the candy thermometer registered 236° F, which is the soft ball stage. This took another 7 to 8 minutes.
When I made Pralines as a kid, I had never heard of a candy thermometer, but rather always cooked the mixture until a small amount dropped in water formed a soft ball.
At this point, I removed the pan from the heat and added the butter. It’s important at this point to not stir the mixture.
I let the mixture stand until the candy thermometer reached 150° F. This took another 20 minutes or so. I guess as a kid, I just let it cool off a bit! Then I added the vanilla extract and pecans. I stirred the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon until it began to thicken and lose some of its gloss. This took several minutes more.
At this point, I used a 1½-inch disher (a.k.a. ice cream scoop) to drop individual portions onto parchment lined baking sheets. I had to move quickly here because the candy continued to thicken.
I set the baking sheets aside to allow the candy to thoroughly cool and harden. The result was 3-dozen delicious Pralines. Yum!
If you’d like to try another variation of this recipe, check out my Pecan Praline Morsels.
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- 3 cups light brown sugar firmly packed
- 1 cup whipping cream
- 2 Tablespoons light corn syrup
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup unsalted butter at room temperature
- 2 cups chopped pecans lightly roasted at 350° F for 7 to 8 minutes
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Bring first 4 ingredients to a boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring mixture constantly.
- Continue cooking mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes, or until a candy thermometer registers 236° F (soft ball stage).
- Remove mixture from heat, and add butter (do not stir). Let stand until candy thermometer reaches 150° F. Stir in pecans and vanilla, using a wooden spoon. Stir constantly until candy begins to thicken.
- Working rapidly, drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto wax paper or parchment paper. Let stand until firm. YIELD: 3 dozen.