Friday, December 21, 2007

New Orleans Praline Pieces (Page 697)

  • Date: Saturday, December 15, 2007 -- 7pm
  • Location: Bloomington, IN
  • Kitchen: My Apartment
  • Dining Companions: Matty, Mike M, Teresa, Paul K, Beth, Lauren K, Jeremy, Ayelet, Michael L, Ann, Daniel L, Kent, Sue, Allan, Ann E, Jim, Marcia, Vladimir, Kitty, Muriel, Marc, and Tricia
  • Recipe Rating: B+

Kate and Matt were hosting a holiday dessert party last Friday night, and I made these candies to bring to it. Unfortunately Matty's flight was so delayed that we never made it to the party, so I served these at our holiday party the next day instead. It's difficult to grade this candy. First the positive: they were delicious! They had a a rich buttery taste, studded with pecans, and a lovely melt-in-your mouth texture. Homemade candy is inevitably better than what you can buy in the store, and this was no exception. They tasted fresh, and flavorful!

So why do they get merely a B+? I'll tell you about my praline making. I have made candy many times, and am very aware that you have to be quite careful about the temperature, etc... So I was extremely careful. I cooked my sugar, butter, cream mixture to exactly 236 degrees. I cooled it to exactly 220 degrees. I stirred until thick and creamy, and I spread it into a pan. Now, normally pralines are not spread into a pan. They are dropped by the spoonful to form big, delicious praline lumps. But this recipe called for it to be spread into a pan, so I did. Then I let it harden. And harden it did. But praline is not an extremely hard candy. It is softer than a brittle for instance. So I was a bit uncertain when I saw that I was supposed to "cut and break" my praline into pieces. Break? Well I tried to cut. Cutting was easy. Getting them out of the pan was not. I rapidly ended up with a pile of crumbled praline with a few nice chunks in it. I was at a loss. What could the problem have been? Somehow I scraped all the praline out of the pan, onto a cutting board. I was desperate to save it, because it tasted awesome, so I stared at it for a while, and decided that one problem was that the pecan pieces were too big, making it difficult for the praline to break (or be cut) nicely. So I took a chef's knife to the whole thing until I had a huge pile of chopped, crumbled praline. There was no way to serve that, so I took my chopped up praline, pressed in onto a cookie sheet and cut out small pieces using a small detail pastry cutter. And that worked just fine. I ended up with cute little shapes of praline, that stayed together, and were a nice size for snacking. But it was an ordeal. So my question for The Book is this? Why not just drop it by the spoonful to make praline mounds like every other recipe does? There is a reason that that method has stood the test of time: it works! My advice: go ahead and make this recipe -- it does taste great -- but don't try to spread it in a pan and then cut it up. Just drop it in mounds like praline is meant to be!

Here is the recipe.

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