New Orleans Pecan Pralines
2 cups pecan halves
2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups firmly-packed light or dark brown sugar*
1 cup evaporated milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or bourbon (optional)
* The type of brown sugar used will determine the color of the pralines.
Important: Have all of your ingredients handy before you start making the pralines. Once you start the process of making pralines, it goes quickly.
Butter a large sheet of wax paper or parchment paper; set aside. You could also use a large silicon mat.
Spread the pecans out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Roast in a 350 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes, or until toasted. Set aside to cool and until ready to use.
In a large heavy pan over medium heat, combine sugar, brown sugar, and evaporated milk; cook, stirring constantly until the thermometer reaches an internal temperature of 235 degrees F. or when a small amount of sugar mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard but not brittle threads.
As soon as the internal temperature of the candy mixture reaches 235 degrees F. on your cooking thermometer, add the butter and vanilla extract. Stir until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is well combined (about 1 minute). Immediately remove the mixture from heat; set saucepan in a large pan of cold water to cool.
When sugar mixture has almost cooled, beat with a spoon 1 minute or until it begins to lose it gloss. Immediately stir in toasted pecan halves.
Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared buttered wax paper, leaving about 3 inches between each ball for the pralines to spread. NOTE: Work quickly before mixture sets. If it thickens up, just place pan back on low heat to re-soften.
Let cool until the pralines are firm, approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
When pralines have cooled and have become firm, wrap individually in aluminum foil or plastic wrap and store in a covered container.
It is best to enjoy your Pralines within two to three weeks after they’re made. They will not exactly go bad after that, but the sugar begins to re-crystallize and they lose some of their delicious creaminess.
It is best to store pralines in an airtight container or storage bag.
Makes 36 small or 20 large pralines.