One treat that I could expect at the Christmas season was home made candy from family, and my favorite was the pralines. If you’ve never had them, you should try, at least once. They’re so much trouble, you’ll work off the extra pounds just doing this.
We used the southern pronunciation, so that the beginning sound was ‘prah’, not ‘pray’.
Candy-making isn’t something you do in hot months, and it takes a lot of cleaning up, but for kids’ holidays it’s a particularly nice way to celebrate.
These were brought over from France, where I am told they were a courting gift (aphrodisiacs?). In New Orleans, they became a pecan confection and milk was added.
- 1- 1/2 cups sugar
- 3/4 cups light brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 cup + 2 T. Half and Half cream
- 1/2 stick butter
- 1 1/2 cups pecans
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
Combine all ingredients except the pecans and vanilla in a heavy saucepan.
Mixture will be thick. Stir until it comes to a boil, then turn heat down to a low boil. Stir occasionally and sparingly; spoon mixture up on sides of pan to melt any sugar that hasn’t melted.
Cook until the mixture reaches 239 degrees with a candy thermometer. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, bring it to the soft ball stage. I find that they do better just a few lines below 239 as they don’t harden quite so fast and make it easier to spoon into pralines.
Remove from heat. Stir in the vanilla and the pecans. Stir until the mixture begins to thicken and becomes creamy and cloudy. Spoon onto waxed paper to harden.
What usually happens is that by the time the mixture turns cloudy signaling that it is time to drop onto the waxed paper, it starts hardening too fast to drop correctly. You should then stir in about 1 – 2 tablespoons of warm water to thin the mixture. Don’t add too much – just enough to make the spoonfuls drop and settle in a “puddle”. You don’t want them to look like chunks of rocks.
If cooked to the correct temperature, it won’t take a minute to harden by stirring. If you don’t cook them long enough, they remain “sticky” and never become firm. They should be firm, yet creamy. If you don’t eat them all the first day <g>, wrap them individually and store them in an airtight container.
This was one of the gifts I used to request, and when we went anywhere in the south by car, required a stop at the Stuckey’s along the way. We had to have been very good, of course.
Candy is not easy to make, so why we have the expression ‘easy as candy’ is a bit of a puzzle. Maybe it relates to another saying, “candy is dandy but liquor is quicker’.
As you can probably tell from the directions, this will make a mess to clean up, so maybe you can use the sweets to bribe the rest of the family to reward you for the trouble you went to, by doing the mop up.
Photo by psgreen01, used under Creative Commons license