MAKES ABOUT 2 DOZEN
The recipe for these pralines is an adaptation of one that appears in MexTex: Traditional Tex-Mex Taste (Bright Sky Press, 2006) by Matt Martinez, Jr. Pralines, whose name derives from a word of French origin, are sweets made by coating nuts with sugar syrup. The addition of baking soda to this recipe creates a light and silky confection.
2 tbsp. butter
2 cups sugar
3⁄4 cup milk
1⁄2 tsp. baking soda
1 1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1⁄2 cups pecan halves or pieces
1. Line 2 large sheet pans with wax paper, butter the paper with 1 tbsp. of the butter, and set aside. Combine sugar, milk, and baking soda in a medium pot and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 240° on a candy thermometer (the soft ball stage), 18–20 minutes.
2. Remove pot from heat, add remaining 1 tbsp. butter and vanilla extract, and stir quickly until completely incorporated and creamy, about 20 seconds. Add pecans and stir well to coat.
3. Working quickly—before the mixture sets—drop generous spoonfuls of it onto the prepared pans to form disks about 2" wide. Let them cool and harden completely, about 2 hours. Carefully peel the pralines from the wax paper. Serve at once, or store the pralines in an airtight container at room temperature for 2–3 days.