Mardi Gras recipe: Easy New Orleans pralines

Mardi Gras pralines can easily be made using a microwave. Laissez les bon temps rouler!

The Runaway Spoon
French settlers brought pralines to Louisiana and New Orleans. Pralines have become a classic sweet treat to help celebrate Mardi Gras.

Candy making is not something I typically try my hand at. All that talk about thermometers and stages and testing methods. Those recipes always look like the kind of thing I don’t have the patience for. Plus, once you’ve been badly burned by hot sugar, it makes you candy-shy. But this is an exception. I call it Pralines for Idiots, because it really does away with all that soft-ball/hard-crack thermometer testing nonsense. If I can make these, anyone can.

Years ago, a friend brought some lovely homemade pralines as a hostess gift. I was hugely impressed and absolutely made over her and her skill and patience. She finally admitted to me that it was on old recipe from her mom that you made in the microwave. The microwave! I couldn’t believe it, so she finally wrote it down for me on a little scrap if note paper. After all that fuss, I filed the recipe away and forgot about it. But thinking about Mardi Gras coming up, I wistfully thought it would be nice if I knew how to make pralines. Then I remembered that recipe and dug through all my files to find it.

I have had to experiment with this recipe quite a bit to get consistent results. The original recipe called for a much longer cooking time. I assume this dates from early microwave days when the wattage was relatively low. My microwave is 1300 watts, but I have tested this in a 1000 watt as well with the same results. Watch the mixture bubble away, and you will see that it gets to a nice, rolling boil. Be very careful when removing the bowl from the oven, as hot sugar burns like the dickens. Use oven mitts and don’t get your fingers near it. When you stir the sugar before scooping the pralines, it should begin to be opaque and slightly creamy-looking. Keep going until you get there. I use a big serving spoon to scoop up the mix, then scrape it onto the waxed paper with a smaller spoon. I like it when the pralines aren’t perfectly round and look a little rugged – I want everyone to know that I made these my own self! This makes about 18 3-inch round pralines, but feel free to make smaller snack size versions. You might want to have an extra waxed paper-lined tray ready if you do.

Easy pralines
Makes about 18 large pralines

2 cups white sugar
1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter, cut in pieces
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1-3/4 cup chopped pecans
Pinch of salt

Cover 2 baking sheets with waxed paper and set aside.

Place all the ingredients in a large microwave safe glass bowl. Glass is best so you can see the mixture bubbling. Stir well. Microwave on high for 5 minutes. The mixture will be bubbling vigorously. Carefully remove the bowl from the microwave wearing oven mitts and stir with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula.

Return the bowl to the microwave and cook a further 5 minutes. Remove with oven mitts and stir vigorously for 1 minute. The mixture should begin to look creamy and slightly thickened, but still loose. If the mixture has not started to become opaque, microwave in one minute intervals, stirring after each, until it is.

Using two spoons (one for scooping the mixture, the second for scraping it onto the pan), scoop mounds of praline mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Leave lots of room between them for the pralines to spread. The hot sugar mixture is very hot and will burn, so don’t try to get your fingers involved. Work pretty quickly, but carefully. Leave the pralines to firm up, then peel them from the waxed paper and store them in an airtight container between fresh sheets of waxed paper.

Perre Coleman Magness blogs at The Runaway Spoon.

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