Pralines will make any child smile, and many an adult. Being so popular in both the Old and New Worlds, their story deserves to be told.
It all started in la douce France, the first born daughter of the Church, with a nobleman by the name of Caesar. He was Marshall of France, 1st duke of Choiseul and Count of Plessis-Praslin (1598-1675).
Caesar descended from Renaud III of Choiseul, and already during the lifetime of this 13th century Crusader, the Choiseul lineage was an old one in the Champagne region of France.
Caesar fought in many battles and was faithful to Louis XIV (a boy at the time) during the Regency of Anne of Austria. During this French civil war―known as the Fronde―Caesar earned great renown when he defeated the Marshall of Turenne, one of the great military geniuses of all time, at the battle of Rethel, in 1650.
Caesar instructed the young Louis XIV in the science of war and went on to serve him as minister of State. Years later the king made him first duke of Choiseul and peer of France.
For all his military prowess and his finesse as diplomat and minister, Caesar had a delicate stomach, so in an effort to improve his quality of life, one of his chefs experimented with sugar-coating almonds. His culinary creation helped the duke and has delighted millions ever since.
In France, pralines are made with almonds or hazelnuts. When French settlers brought the recipe to Louisiana, they substituted almonds with pecans and added cream to the sugar syrup. Either way of preparing pralines makes for a sublime treat.
Makes 15 to 24
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup half and half cream
2 tablespoons butter
1 to 1½ cups pecan pieces
Note about the pecans: Break each pecan (half) into half, length wise. Don’t chop the pecans up.
FIRST put wax paper onto a cookie sheet or you can put the wax paper on top of 2 wire racks. The pralines will get warm, so you can put the cookie sheets on top of a wire rake if you are concerned about your countertop.
Second Have your pecan pieces ready, along with the 2 Tablespoons of Butter. Do not add these 2 ingredients in the beginning.
Combine brown sugar, white sugar and cream in a 3-quart pot. Cook over medium-high heat to boiling, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon to dissolve sugars. (This should take 6 to 8 minutes). Avoid splashing the mixture on sides of the pan. Mixture should boil at a moderate, steady rate over entire surface.
Carefully clip a candy thermometer to pan, making sure the bottom of the thermometer does not rest on the bottom of the pan; just above. Boil to the thread stage (228° F) stirring occasionally. At 228° F, remove candy thermometer and add butter and pecan pieces. Stir until butter is dissolved. Put the candy thermometer back on the side of the pan and cook mixture until it reaches the soft ball stage (238° F).
Remove from heat and beat until mixture starts to thicken slightly. (It needs to cool down to about 200° before you should drop them on the waxed paper.) Use a large serving spoon and drop mixture onto waxed paper, trying to evenly distribute equal amounts of pecan in each praline. Leave about 3 inches between each ball for pralines to spread. Allow to cool.
Do NOT attempt to make double or larger batches, as the pralines set up very quickly, and may solidify in the pot. (If the pralines set up too quickly, or do not solidify at all, ― just put them back in the pot, add more cream, and recook them to try again).
Recipe taken from these 2 links: