I moved to Texas three years ago. I’m originally from Indiana and had lived there most of my life. The only other states I’ve lived in are Ohio (several years) and Florida (one year). So Texas was a big change. Granted, I did marry a Texan. But I’d never been outnumbered like this before. First, state pride is HUGE. It’s like everyone’s second religion. And there’s so so much that is attributed to Texas. Some of it is legit - like Longhorn cattle, Texas BBQ, bluebonnets, and so much more - and some of it comes from not totally understanding that other states have things too - like hospitality: it’s southern, it’s midwestern, but it’s not just Texan. Give the rest of us a little credit. That’s another thing - Texas is huge. You can drive all day in a straight line and not leave the state. It’s almost like it’s a country. It tried to be. Don’t ask a native Texan about that unless you want a very detailed history lesson.
I’m assimilating nicely and have come to love my new state. I’ve been to rodeos, which are awesome and campy but awesome enough to put up with the campy and maybe find it a little endearing. I took pictures in the bluebonnets. They’re gorgeous. Central Texas is covered in wildflowers for several weeks in springtime. It’s like the grey rainy weather just can’t keep going and loses the fight to this explosion of springtime color. I even helped my family paint a Texas flag on the side of a barn. It doesn’t get more Texas than that. So when my father-in-law, a fifth-generation Texan, invited my husband and me to his retirement ceremony, I knew I had to make something special. And Texan.
Pecan pralines are quintessentially Texan. There are pecan trees all over the state so pecans are really popular. And what tastes sweeter than the caramel-y goodness of pralines. They’re slightly crunchy and then the praline melts in your mouth. You can’t help but eat a whole fist full of them.
These candies are a little finicky. The first time I made them, they fell horribly flat. I was devastated. What was supposed to be a gooey caramel ended up being runny and spread thin on my sheet of wax paper with pecans sticking out awkwardly from the little pool of syrup. I had wasted all of those ingredients. (I do have a solution for this problem of making weird ugly candy. Keep reading.) But there must be something missing here. I figured it out. Once you go through all of the steps and you’re ready to spoon the candy out of the pot, stop. Let it cool slowly in the pot, so that it crystallizes just right. I let it sit for at least 5 minutes if not longer. It will start to thicken as you drop the candy onto your sheet and get down to the bottom of the pot, cooling faster. You don’t want to wait until that thickening happens in the pot, because then you’ll end up with very lumpy candy. You want it to spread out so that you have a smooth round-ish shape. So it will be pretty thin. But don’t worry, as it cools it expands and sets up thicker than it is when it’s hot. And then it’s amazing and delicious.
Yields about 3 dozen candies
- 1 ½ cup raw whole unsalted pecans
- 1 ½ cup sugar
- ¾ cup brown sugar
- 6 Tbsp butter
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Spread raw pecans on a baking sheet.
- Bake for about 5 minutes or until fragrant.
- In a large medium-sized pot combine all ingredients and place on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
- With a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature, heat ingredients to 240 degrees F.
- Once the mixture reaches 240 F, remove pot from heat and let cool at least 5 minutes.
- Spoon mixture into wax paper, with about an inch between each spoonful so that they spread out without sticking together.
- Let cool completely, preferably overnight.
P.S. So you ruined a batch? Maybe you followed all of the directions and they just didn’t come out right. They stuck to the paper. They crumble at the slightest touch. They didn’t set up and are still gooey a day later. Maybe you lumped all the pecans onto the sheet and you still have a bunch of sweet stuff left. I have a pretty fantastic consolation prize for you. Here’s where my Indiana starts to show. Put it on some ice cream! But for real. That’s homemade pecan praline ice cream! How cool is that? Part of my batch was weird, so I tried it. I might just have to make this every time I make pralines. It’s a sugar-splosion no question. But if that’s what you like - and I do - this is the best way to handle candy-making gone wrong.