Petite treat: ‘Baby’ pralines are easy pick-up sweets

September 30, 2009 10:24:00 AM

Jan Swoope - jswoope@cdispatch.com

 

As chair of the committee planning and preparing goodies for the Columbus Arts Council''s gallery receptions, Beverly Norris is always on the hunt for pick-up treats gallery-goers can enjoy as they stroll through the show. And, tying the refreshment table to a theme is her specialty.  

 

A recent quilt exhibit, for example, called for homemade ice cream, strawberry cookies and lemonade. A larger reception related to the blues included blue spatterware, home-prepared chicken nuggets, bite-sized biscuits and Mississippi "caviar" (black-eyed peas dressed up with onions, peppers and more). For a show featuring artwork with a Native American theme, a cheese spread molded in the shape of kokopelli, that mischievous flute-playing figure broadly recognized as a Native symbol, was served. 

 

So it''s no surprise that, for Norris, Columbus'' recent Tennessee Williams Tribute and Tour of Victorian Homes inspired thoughts of New Orleans, the Columbus-born playwright''s adopted home. And pralines (pronounced "prah-leans" by Southern connoisseurs, thank you) are just about as New Orleans as jazz.  

 

 

 

Mmm, mmm, sweet 

 

When it comes to melt-in-your-mouth candies, few things will top the sweet meter like this Creole confection with aristocratic French origins.  

 

Basic praline recipes call for brown sugar, granulated sugar, cream butter and pecans. Some incorporate light corn syrup and milk. Variations include candies flavored with shredded coconut, rum, vanilla, chocolate and peanut butter. Most are flat, while others are plumper, with larger halved nuts. 

 

"Pralines are actually so sweet, I like the petites," says Norris, who made a batch for "The Dog Enchanted by the Divine View" actors and crew visiting Mississippi to perform the Williams-penned play during the Sept. 7-12 Tribute. "They''re an easy finger-snack to enjoy, so they''re good for receptions; and, because they''re smaller than the pralines we''re used to seeing, they''re not such a potent sugar load." 

 

 

 

Candy cook 

 

Using a recipe from "Ambrosia," the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary''s cookbook first published in 1997, Norris demonstrates the candy-making process. She assembles ingredients and "tools," including a reliable candy thermometer and miniature ice cream scoop (the kind often used to make small hush puppies). She lines two trays with newspaper, topped with wax paper. "The newspaper seems to help them come up easier," she notes. 

 

"As long as you can concentrate on what you''re doing, it''s fairly easy," Norris remarks. "You have to keep an eye on the thermometer, keep the stirring up and be quick when it comes to spooning the mixture onto the wax paper." 

 

Judging the right thickness (the mixture thickens as it cools) for spooning may take a little practice, and "you''re instinctively going to want to cup your hand under your spoon or scoop to catch the drips as your transfer them to the tray. Don''t do it!" she grins. "It''s scalding hot."  

 

The candy mixture can be refrigerated and re-heated if necessary, adding a bit of evaporated milk if needed to return it to desired consistency. Although the "Ambrosia" recipe calls for 2 cups of pecan halves, Norris found 1 cup sufficient. 

 

Crumbled pralines make a great addition to ice cream, and the liquid mixture and flavorings can be used in some unexpected places. A few recipes are included in today''s food pages. 

 

Any time the occasion calls for satisfying a sweet tooth, the intensely-sweet praline will surely get the good times rolling. 

 

 

 

Petite pralines 

 

Makes eight dozen 

 

 

 

2 cups white sugar 

 

2 cups light brown sugar 

 

1 cup evaporated milk 

 

3 tablespoons butter 

 

2 cups pecan halves 

 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

 

 

 

(Recipe source: "Ambrosia," The Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary) 

 

 

 

Sweet potatoes with pralines 

 

 

 

Five large sweet potatoes 

 

1/2 cup butter, softened 

 

1/2 cup sugar 

 

Two eggs, beaten 

 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

 

1/3 cup milk 

 

1/2 cup heavy cream 

 

1 cup light brown sugar 

 

1/3 cup melted butter 

 

1 cup chopped pecans 

 

 

 

(Recipe source: www.garvick.com) 

 

 

 

Peachy praline pie 

 

 

 

One un-baked 9-inch pie shell  

 

3/4 cup sugar 

 

3 tablespoons flour  

 

4 cups sliced peeled peaches  

 

1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice  

 

1/3 cup brown sugar, firmly packed  

 

1/4 cup flour  

 

1/2 cup chopped pecans  

 

3 tablespoons butter 

 

  • Combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl. Add peaches and the lemon juice. 

     

  • Combine brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour and pecans in a small bowl. Mix in butter until the mixture is crumbly.  

     

  • Sprinkle one-third of the pecan mixture over the bottom of the pie shell; cover with the peach mixture and sprinkle with the remaining pecan mixture on top. 

     

  • Bake at 400 degrees, until peaches are tender, about 40 minutes 

     

     

     

    (Recipe source: www.garvick.com)

    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.