Looking back on my childhood I noticed a very disturbing occurrence, the lack of tradition. My family is rich with culture, my grandma is first generation in this country, with her parents coming from Sicily and my adopted family is strong with French and German decent. Both of which have strong culinary history, some more tasty than others. I am not sure why this travesty occurred, but I honestly feel gipped with my cultural heritage. To me the bast part of the holiday season is participating in the traditions passed down. Spending time in the kitchen hearing stories of times past and building new memories.
One of my most fond holiday memories is with my Aunt Jackie, she was the only baker on both sides of the family. Not trained or ever did it professionally but the amount of love she put in, is what made it special. Every year she would make cheesecake, Chex mix, rocky road candy ( from readers digest, and yes I still have the recipe), and beer bread. To me this is what the holidays are, every year I try to make at least two if not all of these. I have always loved how food can bring you back to a place of joy and happiness like no other.
At this point in my life I try to create my own traditions. With traveling, reading, and experiencing new cultures and environments I pull from those influences and a tradition is born that is true to me. I still have much to explore and gain but at this time I have a good foundation.
Today I would like to share with you a very simple confection that I feel in love with when I was on externship in Louisiana durning the holidays. This country treat will always bring me back to the south.
Pralines aka Pecan Candies( depending on parish)
This recipe I am going to share is an adaptation of a classic, mine uses vanilla paste, flake sea salt, hazelnuts, and if you like a pinch of coffee.
350g Light Brown Sugar
180g Heavy Cream
350g hazelnuts, toasted,chopped, sifted
1.5 t Flake Sea Salt – I use Maldon or Jacobsen (Sel gris is also nice cut down to 1 t)
8g Vanilla Paste
*1/4 t Instant espresso or supper fine ground coffee of your choice.* optional
In a heavy bottom pot combine the sugar, brown sugar, cream, milk and butter. Cook to 230°F stir constantly.
Add hazelnuts and salt, continue cooking to 237°F while constantly stirring.
Remove from heat, add vanilla paste and *coffee* stir and allow to sit off the heat till 212°F
Using a wooden spoon or spatula, stir solution for about 45sec-1 min vigorously until solution looks creamy/ cloudy.
Use desired size scoop, no shame here. I prefer to use a tablespoon or # 50 scoop
If your first scoop in really running, just stir till thickens up but not solid, you do what some spreading.
If your product starts to get too think gently warm it back up over direct heat till it is of proper consistency.
I hope that you enjoy this recipe as much as I do. Please take this and make it your own, different nuts, combinations, spices, and herbs.
Be creative. Be you. Make your own traditions.