Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brown sugar, how come you dance so good?

Photo: © Lori Korleski Richardson
I love gooey, chewy caramel. But as I've gotten older, my teeth just can't handle it, and I'm tired of losing fillings to my sweet addiction.

I thought I'd try my hand this Christmas season at making some, but every recipe I found for caramels included corn syrup, which I refuse to buy. So what to do?

Then I remembered pralines. You can make them like caramels, or like a brown-sugar candy. I love both kinds, but thinking of my teeth, I opted for the latter. They are pretty easy to make. It helps if you have a candy thermometer, but that's no guarantee that they will set up. One sheet of mine did, the other didn't. Go figure. I put them in the freezer if they don't set up and use them for topping vanilla yogurt or ice cream.

Note: I keep my unsalted butter in the freezer. To use, I shred what I need with a grater. It comes to room temperature very quickly that way.

Lori K's Pralines
Makes 24 smallish ones

1 1/2 cups of brown sugar (I like dark best)
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons butter, shredded
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped, plus 12 halves for decoration

Melt the sugar and cream in a heavy pan over medium heat, using a silicone spoon to stir. Once it melts, turn up the heat a little and put in the candy thermometer, if using. Cook to soft-boil stage, 240 degrees, about 12 minutes. Turn the heat to simmer and let it cool down to 220 degrees. Add the vanilla and butter, and cook at 220 degrees for about 6 minutes until it's all well blended. Add the pecans and stir well.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Drop a spoonful of the mixture on the sheet, three across and four down. Top each with a pecan half. Repeat on the second sheet. The candy will harden as it comes to room temperature.

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