Food historians trace the birth of pralines to a 17th-century French cook employed by the Duke of Choiseul-Praslin. The nut-and-caramelized-sugar confection contained almonds. When the French migrated to Louisiana, they introduced the praline recipe to America. The New Orleans creamy version of the candy traditionally uses pecans, sugar and cream, while the chewy Texas version includes corn syrup. However, the only way to decide if one pecan praline is "the best" for you is by taste-testing. Become a pecan praline candy connoisseur by tasting several commercially produced versions or making your own version at home.
In operation in the French Quarter of New Orleans since the 1930s, Aunt Sally's produces pralines that contain the traditional Creole mix of pecans and sugar with a dash of vanilla. The recipe, which contains no preservatives, begins with a copper pot and ends with the candies being poured onto marble to cool. Aunt Sally's sells three types of pralines: original Creole, creamy and chewy. The company also creates subtypes of the Creole and creamy versions, including triple chocolate original pralines and bananas foster creamy. A six-count box of Original Creole Pralines costs about $13 in 2011.
A family operation in Austin, Texas, since 1878, Lammes Candies produces Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines, which the company makes with pecans, corn syrup, sugar, butter and salt. The company uses only Texas pecans in its chewy version of the praline, the recipe for which was created in 1892. The Lammes milk chocolate-covered pralines are called Longhorns. A 1-lb. box of Texas Chewie Pecan Pralines costs about $32. A 12-oz. box of Longhorns costs about $27.
Creamy Pecan Pralines
If you want the adventure of making your own creamy pecan pralines, try the version chef Emeril Lagasse produced on his Food Network show "Emeril Live" in 2006. Gather the ingredients: 1 cup light brown sugar, ½ cup sugar, ½ cup heavy cream, 4 tbsp. unsalted butter, 2 tbsp. water and 1 cup pecan halves. Mix the sugars, cream, butter and water in a heavy saucepan. Stir continually over medium heat until the pralines reach softball stage, or at about 238 to 240 degrees F. Add the pecans. Remove the pan from the heat. Stir the mixture constantly with a wooden spoon for about two minutes. Pour the pralines into small piles about 2 tbsp. each onto parchment paper, foil or wax paper. Cool completely.
If you prefer the chewy version of pralines that includes corn syrup, try Texas Pralines from All Recipes. Gather the ingredients: Nonstick cooking spray, 2 cups sugar, 2 cups light corn syrup, 1 lb. butter, 2 cups heavy cream, 2 tsp. vanilla extract and 8 cups pecans. Place foil on cooking sheets. Spray the foil with cooking spray. Mix the sugar and corn syrup in a heavy saucepan. Turn the burner to about medium high to allow the mixture to reach 250 degrees F. Use a candy thermometer to ensure that you reach the correct temperature.
Remove the pan from heat. Add the butter and stir until it melts. Pour the cream in gradually. Return the pan to the heat. Heat until the mixture reaches 242 degrees F, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the vanilla and the pecans. Stir until the pecans are fully coated. Pour the pralines into small piles about 2 tbsp. each onto the foil. Cool completely.
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How to Make Pecan Pralines
Pecan pralines are a delicious treat and they're easier to make than you might think. You'll need a candy thermometer for this...