Friday, September 23, 2005

The Perils of Praline

Tomorrow I'm contributing to a local bake-sale organized to raise money for the people of Louisiana affected by Katrina. It seemed inevitable that my contribution would be pralines aux pecans, a concoction of two sugars and nuts with enough diary product to hold it together.

Now I haven't made pralines in years...and certainly not in micro-climate of my current abode. (Bakers from high-altitude Denver to tropical paradise Florida know what I'm talking about: certain recipes will be affected by local conditions.)

Sunday's trial run of pralines was by the Prudence Penny cookbook:

(My edition is one year older than this one.)

Though I kept close watch on the candy thermometer as it crept up to the recommended temperature, the mixture in my cooking pot never 'threaded' as Prudence promised. So I kept it on boil until I became faintly alarmed by the pleasant smell of cooking sugar turning to the less pleasant odor of burning sugar. I removed the pot from the heat and attempted to finish the recipe.

What we ended up with on Sunday was a small container of carmelized pecans, smashed by a hammer into ice-cream topping sized bits.

Last night was the second trial-run. Disregarding the descriptive terms of 'threading' and the 'small ball' stage (didn't I date him once?), I followed the numbers and cut the heat when the temperature was on target. As the liquid cooled, I thought "Now I haven't cooked it long enough!" But there came that moment where the gloss of the mixture took on a polished sheen and the spoon met with resistance on its final stirring. Dropped rounded teaspoonfuls onto wax paper on my marble counter and before whatever tribe they've got on Survivor this season won the immunity idol, my husband and I were enjoying pralines that I'd be proud to serve at Antoine's.

Pecans are truly the diamonds of the nutmeat world!

Spotted on the Blogger Update List: Pecan Cake Recipes