I'm from New Orleans and have been making pralines since I was a child. The proportions of this recipe are about right, but it leaves out the most essential step, which is beating the mixture after it reaches soft ball stage until it develops a matte sheen. The texture should have tiny crystals. The pralines should snap when you break them, and melt in your mouth.
It takes some practice to know exactly when to stop beating -- too soon and you have a translucent caramel. If you go too long, the mixture is too thick to spread when you're dropping them.
Another trick is to not stir the syrup after it starts boiling to prevent early crystallization. If you're tempted to scrape down the sides, don't do it -- instead, cover the pot a couple of minutes and let the steam wash them down.
Also, we always used raw pecans, not toasted. A pinch of salt brings out the flavor of the pecans.
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Feb. 19, 2011