Happy Accidents: Peculiar Pralines

13 Jul

It started with my birthday cake. I made this kind of over-the-top layer cake that was two layers of yellow butter cake, a salted caramel-pecan filling, chocolate buttercream frosting, and vanilla meringues and shortbread cookies as decorations. It was one of my finer moments, to be sure.

I was enjoying it with my family when my dad turned to me and said of the filling, “There’s a praline in there somewhere.”

Now, I love pralines, so this comment embedded itself in my brain. I have on more than two occasions had pralines shipped to me from New Orleans. I’ve learned how to make them the proper way, using a method similar to making fudge. It requires a lot of precision with a candy thermometer and a pretty good knack for timing.

But my dad was right. The salted caramel buttercream I’d made was strikingly similar in texture and flavor to praline candy, only it stayed soft sandwiched between the cake layers. I wondered what would happen if I played around with the method a little bit and then gave the final product a chance to air-dry and set. If it worked, it would mean that we could ALL have pralines without consulting a candy thermometer or complicated process. And if not, I’d have a bowl full of pecans in caramel, so I’d still be pretty happy.

And oh, did it work. Light color and questionable method aside, I have the candy I dream about. Now you can too.

Peculiar Pralines

  • ½ cup unsalted butter (1 stick or 4 oz.)
  • 1 cup brown sugar (light or dark is fine)
  • ¼ cup milk
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.

Add the brown sugar and stir constantly. Once the mixture comes to a boil, continue stirring and boil for 2 minutes.

Add the milk and bring the mixture back to a boil (this will happen quite quickly).

Remove from the heat and stir in the salt. Allow the mixture to cool for 5-7 minutes.

Pour the warm caramel into the bowl of a stand mixer (or use a hand mixer) and beat on medium speed while slowly adding the powdered sugar a little bit at a time. Scrape down the sides of the bowl between additions. The mixture will lighten in color and thicken slightly.

Fold in the pecans.

Use a cookie scoop or large spoon, drop dollops of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. They will spread just slightly. Using a well-rounded 2 tsp. cookie scoop, I made 16 pralines. But you can make them smaller or larger as you wish.

Allow the pralines to sit at room temperature for several hours or until firm. This took almost 5 hours in my dining room, BUT I made these on an extremely humid summer day. So it may take less time if you are in a cooler, drier climate. Store in an airtight container, if you can possibly leave them alone long enough to save any.

So while they’re not traditional in any sense, they’re definitely creamy, fudgey, sweet, and full of toasted pecans. What’s not to like? Thanks, dad!

Ciao for now,

Neen

 

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