Chocolate Praline Bars
Yield: About 32 bars, approximately 2 1/2 pounds
Tips: Pralines are traditional Southern candies; there
are as many recipes for them as there are cooks. Loaded with pecans,
they are usually not chocolate, and are most often shaped into
rounds dropped from a spoon. Thus, my version is doubly heretical.
The texture of these pralines is the traditional one, however,
rather like a grainy fudge.
Pralines are a long-cooking candy, and you'll need a candy thermometer
to make them. The finished candies will keep at room temperature
for a few days if stored airtight; I wrap them individually to
keep them from drying out. They also freeze beautifully. As is
the case with most sugar-syrup-based candies, don't make these
on a humid day. If you are a fan of pecans, you must give these
1/2 cups pecan halves
3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
squares (4 ounces) unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped
cup heavy cream
Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into bits, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
Prepare the pecan halves first. Preheat oven to 350°F. In a shallow,
foil-lined pan large enough to hold pecans in a single layer,
toast pecan halves just until light golden and fragrant, about
10 to 13 minutes. Stir occasionally, and watch carefully! (Nuts
can burn quickly.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool. When
cooled to room temperature, set aside 1 cup and chop into medium
pieces; place in small bowl. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
If remaining 1 1/2 cups of pecan halves are large, break them
up slightly; if small, use as is. Cover and set aside at room
Line a 7- by 11- by 2-inch pan with two layers of regular-weight
aluminum foil, pressing out as many creases as possible and folding
overhang back against the outside of the pan. Set aside. Have
ready a buttered, large rubber spatula; a buttered large spoon;
a larger, shallower pan or vessel than the 2 1/2 quart pot in
which the praline mixture will be cooked; and some ice cubes.
Adjust a candy thermometer so that its bulb rests slightly above
the bottom of a 2 1/2 quart heavy-bottomed, nonreactive saucepan.
Remove thermometer; combine both sugars, water and salt in saucepan.
Place over low heat, stirring frequently to dissolve sugars and
scraping pot sides once or twice with rubber spatula. Meanwhile,
place candy thermometer in cold water in a separate saucepan;
set over low heat to pre-warm the thermometer. While sugar-water
heats, place chopped chocolate in small heatproof bowl. Heat cream
in small saucepan over low heat, stirring occasionally, until
very hot. Pour about two-thirds of hot cream over chocolate. Allow
to stand for a minute or two, then stir or whisk gently until
very smooth. Gradually stir or whisk in remaining hot cream.
Increase heat under sugar-water to medium. When both sugars are
dissolved and sugar-water is very hot (it may actually have started
to boil), add melted chocolate mixture and stir in well. Stir
mixture occasionally until it boils. You want the mixture to maintain
a vigorous, rolling boil, but reduce heat if it threatens to boil
over. Stir often enough to keep from sticking to bottom of pan
(I stir mine every five minutes. Especially at the beginning of
cooking time, when the mixture is thin, be careful when stirring,
as the boiling mixture can splash.)
The thermometer should still be in the gradually-heating saucepan
of water. When that water boils, turn the heat off, but leave
the thermometer in the pan. After 10 to 15 minutes of the praline
mixture boiling, remove the thermometer from the water, shake
off, and place into the boiling praline mixture. Continue stirring
every five minutes or so; stir a bit more often as the boiling
mixture thickens. Cook mixture to 235°F (this may take an hour
or more of boiling), then remove from heat and remove thermometer
from pan. Add butter bits and vanilla. Let stand for about a minute,
then stir in with a clean, large, heavy spoon (preferably made
of stainless steel).
Place about an inch of cold water and ice cubes into the larger,
shallower pan, then place the pan of hot praline mixture into
that pan. Stir/beat with the large spoon, pausing often. Scrape
the spoon and the bottom of the pot occasionally with a large
rubber spatula. Keep stirring the praline mixture until it has
thickened substantially and is beginning to lose its gloss. Important:
you might want to remove it from the ice water bath when it has
thickened somewhat but while it is still very glossy, because
once the gloss begins to disappear, you're on borrowed time. Set
the pan of praline mixture on a folded kitchen towel, and keep
stirring, again pausing frequently. When gloss begins to disappear,
add the pecan halves (add only the halves now), and stir to distribute
evenly. Stirring should be getting difficult at this point. Working
quickly, turn the praline mixture into the prepared pan, scraping
out the saucepan with the buttered spatula. With back of buttered
spoon (or with the backs of your buttered hands), quickly spread
mixture evenly in pan; it should already be starting to set up.
Sprinkle top evenly with chopped pecans, and press them in lightly.
Cool completely before cutting and storing.
To cut, use a large, sharp, heavy, straight-edged knife. Cut these
into small bars; they are very rich! I make 32 bars out of a batch.
If desired, wrap individually in plastic wrap. Store airtight
at room temperature for up to several days. Freeze for longer
Stephanie Zonis provides the above information to anyone, but
retains copyright on all text. This means that you may not: distribute
the text to others without the express written permission of Stephanie
Zonis; "mirror" or include this information on your
own server or documents without my permission; modify or re-use
the text on this system. You MAY: print copies of the information
for your own personal use; store the files on your own computer
for your personal use only; reference hypertext documents on this
server from your own documents.