MAKES ABOUT 24
Pralines, though originally from Louisiana, are made throughout the South and can range from pale golden to deep brown in color and from soft and fudgy to crisp, almost brittle, in texture. This recipe, by cookbook author Marion Cunningham, yields firm candies with a maplelike flavor.
2 1/3 cups light brown cane sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 tsp. salt
2 cups shelled pecan halves
1. Line a clean work surface with a 4-foot length of parchment paper. Put sugar, cream, and salt in a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir mixture over medium heat until sugar dissolves, then allow it to come to a boil without stirring. It will now take 15-20 minutes to finish cooking the pralines.
2. The sugar syrup will foam up with large bubbles, but these will soon subside. Cook syrup until it reaches the soft ball stage, 238° on a candy thermometer. (Or drop about 1/2 tsp. syrup into a small bowl of cold water; it should form a teardrop-shaped ball at the bottom of the bowl. Roll the ball between your fingers; if it holds together in a soft ball, the syrup is ready to remove from the heat.)
3. Remove syrup from heat, add pecans, and stir briskly for 1 minute. Working quickly, drop mixture, 1 heaping tbsp. at a time, onto parchment paper. Allow to cool completely, then remove from paper.