Sometimes, if I try really, really hard, I can almost convince myself that candy is good for me.
Take buttermilk pralines, for example.
They’ve got pecans; good for a quick energy boost.
The buttermilk? Well, I’ve never been much of a milk drinker, so that’s my much needed daily dose of calcium.
And, the sugar….
Ah, well, you can’t knock a girl for trying, anyway.
On that note, be warned: these candies are incredibly sweet. Hardly surprising given the amount of sugar in them. Toasting the pecans keeps them on the right side of cloying, but just barely.
The first time I tried pralines was back when I was in middle school, on a family trip to Charleston. Even now, the candies remind me of the city, its leisurely pace and moss overhung streets, of having glasses and glasses filled up to the brim with sweet tea.
The caramelized flavor and their texture, which somehow manages to be both silken and sandy, had me hooked instantly. I must have had three large ones in one sitting, then promptly started boucing off the walls while my teeth ached. But, it was worth it.
Now that I’m adult and better versed in the ways of moderation, I like to think I’ve earned the right to savor them. I find they’re best served with a hot cup of coffee at the end of a meal. The edge of the coffee helps counterbalance all of the sugar and make the pralines melt away.
One of these days I’ll make it back to Charleston, but until then, I have buttermilk pralines to transport me.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup whole buttermilk*
1 1/2 TBS light colored corn syrup
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
2/3 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
1 1/2 TBS butter
1 TBS vanilla extract
Combine the sugar, buttermilk, corn syrup, baking soda, cinnamon and salt into a large saucepan and cook over a low heat until the sugar dissolves, stirring constantly. Once the sugar has dissolved, continue cooking until a candy thermometer reaches 234 F. This should take approximately 10 minutes.
Once your mixture has reached 234 F, remove it from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes.
Stir nuts, butter, and vanilla into the sugar mixture using a wooden spoon. Continue stirring until the mixture looses its shine. This should take 5-7 minutes.
Using teaspoons, drop the mixture onto a cookie tray lined with a silpat mat or wax paper. Let the candy rest until it has set, about 20 minutes.
Yields approximately 30 pralines.
*Don’t want to bother getting buttermilk? Substitute 1/2 cup whole milk and 1/2 TBS lemon juice. Just be sure to mix it well before adding it to your candy.