This creamy melt in your mouth homemade candy of pecan pralines is made from my Maw-maw Noelie’s recipe. It’s a classic southern Louisiana favorite that’s easy to prepare, especially in cold dry weather. I’m sharing my family’s favorite holiday candy hoping it’ll become yours, too!
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“Uh-huh, tell me what the weather is like,” is what Momma asked over the phone when I told her I was making pralines for a Christmas party that night.
At first, I thought she was changing the subject rather quickly, then when I told her it was cold and humid I remembered how the weather conditions can determine the success of the candy.
Since the humidity was high that day, she told me that I needed to let the candy cook a little longer, past the soft-ball stage. With that in mind, my first batch of pralines was a little dry and set up rather quickly. (Cooked too long.) The second batch was better, but the third was melt in your mouth good! I guess I was out of practice.
The Sweet Tradition of Pecan Pralines
Noelie Trahan was my momma’s momma. She made the best pecan pralines. They became a tradition in our southern Louisiana home at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year. She taught my momma how to make pralines, and my momma taught me.
Maw-maw had a large pecan orchard where we used to help her pick the nuts every fall. I recall large flour sacks filled with pecans covering the wash house floor for drying. The sacks would be turned several times until the nuts were dry enough to separate from the shell when peeled.
There was always a plentiful harvest of pecans for baking and making pralines. I can’t remember a holiday without those sweet treats. Pecan praline making isn’t difficult, but there is a tricky part. It’s in knowing when to take the candy off of the heat before adding the pecans.
Reaching The Soft-Ball Stage
I have never gotten along well with a candy thermometer, so I use a cup of cold water and spoon a little of the candy into the cup to test and see at what stage the pralines have cooked.
I use my fingers to gather the candy together while in the cold water. It’s ready to take off of the heat when it forms into a ball. You can skip this process by using a candy thermometer to see the accurate time the pralines reach the softball stage.
After the candy reaches the right temperature it’s time to take it off of the heat and start stirring. Then add the pecans and stir some more until it begins to thicken.
The last step is spooning the pralines onto a sheet of wax paper on your countertop to allow them to set until they harden and cool completely.
Put sugar, baking soda, salt, and milk in a heavy saucepan.
Stir ingredients together and cook over medium to medium-low heat with a constant stir.
Cook until the candy darkens, and it reaches a little passed the soft-ball stage, just before 250 degrees on the thermometer.
Take the pot off of the heat and add the butter and vanilla to the pralines.
Beat by hand with a spoon for a few minutes, then add pecans continuing to beat until it feels a bit firmer.
Drop pralines onto waxed paper using a tablespoon and let sit until they harden and cool completely.
Instead of using a candy thermometer, you can test to see if the pralines have reached the soft-ball stage by placing a few drops of the mixture into an ice-cold cup of water. Use your fingers to form the praline mixture into a ball. If it has reached the appropriate stage, it will form into a ball but will turn flat after it is taken out of the cold water.
Cold, dry weather will help yield the best results for pralines. If the weather is humid, you may need to cook the pralines a little longer.
Keywords: Pecan Pralines
I treasure my Maw-maw Noelie’s Pecan Praline recipe. It’s a gift from her to our family that I continue to use making happy memories in the kitchen with friends and family.