Pralines

Picture in your mind a round disc of sugar and butter with pecans in it. Do you call it a PRAH-leen or a PRAY-leen? Only one is right, and it’s time to put the confusion on how to pronounce “praline” to bed.

The candy was brought to America, particularly Louisiana, in the 1800s by French settlers who used the South’s plentiful pecans instead of the original almonds creating the pralines we know today. But this confection was originally made with caramelized sugar and almonds. It was created in the 1600s by the cook of a French diplomat named Marshal du Plessis-Praslin, and it was named for him. So using French pronunciation, it should be PRAH-leen.

One more time — the candy is PRAH-leen. Not PRAY-leen, which is a position you may find yourself in at church. I have to admit, though, that my Southern accent is so strong, that I say something closer to PRAW-leen. It’s still not PRAY, though.

I like to make pralines for Christmas. Three or four in a festive little baggie tied with ribbon makes a great gift. After all, how can you ever go wrong with sugar and butter? But much like Seven-minute Frosting, you have to make them on a pretty day. If it’s too humid, they won’t “set up.”

My favorite recipe is one from Martha Stewart, believe it or not. I found it in the Martha Stewart Living Cookbook probably fifteen years ago, and it’s turned into my go-to every year. Before I tried this recipe, I’d never heard of putting buttermilk in pralines, so I was skeptical, but they turn out great every time. Make sure you use only pretty, whole pecan halves so when they spread out, they’ll look as good as they taste!

Pralines

Ingredients

  • 1 cup nonfat buttermilk
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp bourbon
  • 1 cup pecan halves

Directions

  1. Put several sheets of parchment paper out on the counter.
  2. In a 4-quart saucepan, combine buttermilk, baking soda, and sugar. Clip a candy thermometer onto the pot. Over medium-high heat, bring to a rolling boil, stirring constantly. Brush down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in water to prevent crystallizing.
  3. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture is 240° (soft ball stage), about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, and add butter and bourbon. Stir with a wooden spoon until the butter has melted. Stir in pecans and beat with the spoon for 30 seconds.
  4. Immediately spoon one tablespoon of the mixture onto the wax paper so that it forms a 2-inch patty. Repeat with the remaining mixture. If it starts to set up, return to the heat for 1 minute, scraping down sides and stirring.
  5. Let patties stand until set, about an hour. Then you can wrap them up or store between sheets of wax paper in a tin.
  6. Share your PRAH-leens with all your friends!