by Stephanie Zonis
About 32 bars, approximately 2-1/2 pounds
Pralines are traditional Southern candies; there are as many recipes for them as there are cooks. Loaded with pecans, they are usually not chocolate, and are most often shaped into rounds dropped from a spoon. Thus, my version is doubly heretical. The texture of these pralines is the traditional one, however, rather like a grainy fudge.
Pralines are a long-cooking candy, and you'll need a candy thermometer to make them. The finished candies will keep at room temperature for a few days if stored airtight; I wrap them individually to keep them from drying out. They also freeze beautifully. As is the case with most sugar-syrup-based candies, don't make these on a humid day. If you are a fan of pecans, you must give these a try.
2-1/2 cups pecan halves
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1-1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 cup water
4 squares (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate,
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, cut into bits,
at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
Prepare the pecan halves first. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a shallow, foil-lined pan large enough to hold pecans in a single layer, toast pecan halves just until light golden and fragrant, about 10 to 13 minutes. Stir occasionally, and watch carefully! (Nuts can burn quickly.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When cooled to room temperature, set aside 1 cup and chop into medium pieces; place in small bowl. Cover and set aside at room temperature. If remaining 1-1/2 cups of pecan halves are large, break them up slightly; if small, use as is. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
Line a 7 by 11 by 2 inch pan with two layers of regular-weight aluminum foil, pressing out as many creases as possible and folding overhang back against the outside of the pan. Set aside. Have ready a buttered, large rubber spatula; a buttered large spoon; a larger, shallower pan or vessel than the 2-1/2 quart pot in which the praline mixture will be cooked; and some ice cubes. Set aside.
Adjust a candy thermometer so that it's bulb rests slightly above the bottom of a 2-1/2 quart heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan. Remove thermometer; combine both sugars, water, and salt in saucepan. Place over low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve sugars and scraping pot sides once or twice with rubber spatula. Meanwhile, place candy thermometer in cold water in a separate saucepan; set over low heat to pre-warm the thermometer. While sugar-water heats, place chopped chocolate in small heatproof bowl. Heat cream in small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until very hot. Pour about two-thirds of hot cream over chocolate. Allow to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until very smooth. Gradually stir or whisk in remaining hot cream.
Increase heat under sugar-water to medium. When both sugars are dissolved and sugar-water is very hot (it may actually have started to boil), add melted chocolate mixture and stir in well. Stir mixture occasionally until it boils. You want the mixture to maintain a vigorous, rolling boil, but reduce heat if it threatens to boil over. Stir often enough to keep from sticking to bottom of pan (I stir mine every five minutes. Especially at the beginning of cooking time, when the mixture is thin, be careful when stirring, as the boiling mixture can splash.)
The thermometer should still be in the gradually-heating saucepan of water. When that water boils, turn the heat off, but leave the thermometer in the pan. After 20 to 30 minutes of the praline mixture boiling, remove the thermometer from the water, shake off, and place into the boiling praline mixture. Continue stirring every five minutes or so; stir a bit more often as the boiling mixture thickens. Cook mixture to 235 degrees F. (this may take an hour or more of boiling), then remove from heat and remove thermometer from pan. Add butter bits and vanilla. Let stand for about a minute, then stir in with a clean, large, heavy spoon (preferably made of stainless steel).
Place about an inch of cold water and ice cubes into the larger, shallower pan, then place the pan of hot praline mixture into that pan. Stir/beat with the large spoon, pausing often. Scrape the spoon and the bottom of the pot occasionally with a large rubber spatula. Keep stirring the praline mixture until it has thickened substantially and is beginning to lose it's gloss. Important: you might want to remove it from the ice water bath when it has thickened somewhat but while it is still very glossy, because once the gloss begins to disappear, you're on borrowed time. Set the pan of praline mixture on a folded kitchen towel, and keep stirring, again pausing frequently. When gloss begins to disappear, add the pecan halves (add only the halves now), and stir to distribute evenly. Stirring should be getting difficult at this point. Working quickly, turn the praline mixture into the prepared pan, scraping out the saucepan with the buttered spatula. with back of buttered spoon (or with the backs of your buttered hands), quickly spread mixture evenly in pan; it should already be starting to set up. Sprinkle top evenly with chopped pecans, and press them in lightly. Cool completely before cutting and storing.
To cut, use a large, sharp, heavy, straight-edged knife. Cut these into small bars; they are very rich! I make 32 bars out of a batch. If desired, wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store airtight at room temperature for up to several days. Freeze for longer storage.
Copyright © 1999 Francesca Chocolate Productions. All Rights Reserved.
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This page created November 1999
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