If you can't find light cream, substitute half-and-half, which has a similar fat content.
Wear long sleeves to protect your arms from stray candy bubbles. Sugar burns are painful, so take care, especially with children around.
It’s better to start on a moderate heat setting and raise the temperature slowly than to cook the candy too hot, too fast. If a hot drop lands on your arm, rinse it off immediately and rub the spot with an ice cube to prevent a burn.
I highly recommend using a candy thermometer, preferably digital, to carefully monitor the temperature during the cooking process. Traditional Southern recipes say never make these on a rainy day!
- 2 cups pecan halves
- 1 1/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 3/4 cup light cream
- 2 Tbsp unsalted butter
- Pinch of salt (optional, omit if using salted butter)
- 1 teaspoon brandy or vanilla (optional)
1 Toast the pecans: This is an optional step, which gives the nuts a richer, nuttier flavor. Preheat oven to 300°F. Place pecan halves on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast for 10 minutes, turning once. Let cool.
2 Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat and set aside.
3 Cook sugars, baking soda, light cream to 235°F: Mix together white and brown sugar and baking soda (and pinch salt, if using unsalted butter) in a 3-quart saucepan. Stir in light cream and place over medium to medium-high heat. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan.
Cook, whisking occasionally, until mixture reaches 235°F on a candy thermometer (about 25 minutes). Slight foaming and occasional bubbling in the mixture (it looks like it’s gasping) are normal at this stage.
4 Add butter: As soon as the temperature reaches 235°F, add the butter and stir until the butter is fully melted and the mixture is well combined (about 1 minute).
5 Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the brandy and pecans until well coated. Continue stirring to cool slightly (about 30 seconds).
6 Quickly drop by spoonfuls onto prepared baking sheets. Let cool completely until the pralines lift easily from the pan (about 45 minutes).
Store in an airtight container for 3 to 5 days.