Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mexican chocolate pralines



When I was invited to a party where Southern pork dishes were being celebrated, the decision on what to bring was a no-brainer: Mexican chocolate pralines. Now before you call my contribution a little odd, let me explain myself.

My first (and more obvious) choice was to make cookies with lard. I didn’t have any lard on hand, however, so I went to the Union Square farmers’ market to pick up a tub. But a snowstorm had threatened to blanket the city and my preferred lard vendor wasn’t there; clearly, I had to come up with another plan.

I’ve been spending lots of time lately reading old cookbooks. I’m curious to see what our ancestors ate and to see when certain dishes may have come into the common culinary vernacular. When looking for inspiration, I recalled that I had recently come across an old Mexican-candy recipe that called for piloncillo (or brown sugar) to be cooked with water and a strip of raw bacon.



Now, I know bacon in a dessert is a trendy thing these days, but I was intrigued to see it listed in a 100-year-old recipe. And while I didn’t have lard to make cookies, bacon was easily attainable. In another cookbook, I had seen a recipe for Mexican-chocolate pralines. So for the pork-themed feast, I decided to combine the two thoughts and make Mexican-chocolate pralines with bacon.

Making a first-time dish to share at a large gathering is always brave if not foolish. And while the flavor of these pralines was pleasing, the texture was too delicate. So instead of patties thick with pecans and bacon, I had broken chips and shards instead. My pralines looked sad. Plus you couldn’t even really taste the bacon! But I was out of time and couldn’t show up empty handed so I threw the pieces into a tin and headed to the party.

I suppose my offering these praline pieces was the equivalent of a student who shows a failed project to a teacher to prove that she has at least tried to complete the assignment. I gave myself about a C for effort. But then a strange thing happened. While at the party, I witnessed people eating the Mexican-chocolate praline pieces. And they were smiling! With pleasure! So, with a little work I knew I could make the Mexican chocolate pralines into something special.

Buoyed by my friends’ comments, the next day I attempted to make these pralines again. I threw out the bacon (even though it had been the primary impetus to make these in the first place), added more nuts, let the candy cook longer and threw in some orange zest for a hint of brightness. And after an hour of letting the pralines harden, I had a long sheet of parchment paper lined with a fine batch of Mexican chocolate pralines.



If you’re looking for Valentine’s inspiration, these take little time and effort to make but are very impressive (even when they’re not entirely perfect). But you don’t need a special occasion to eat them, as they’re a simple pleasure that can be enjoyed at any time.

Mexican chocolate pralines (adapted from Aprovecho)
Ingredients:
1 disc of Mexican hot chocolate, such as Ibarra
2 oz. of unsweetened baking chocolate
2 cups of pecans, 1 cup chopped and 1 cup whole
1 1/2 cups of sugar
3/4 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of milk
6 tablespoons of butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons fresh orange zest or 1 teaspoon dried orange zest
1/4 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Tools needed:
Candy thermometer
Parchment paper

Method:
In an oven set at 350 degrees, roast the pecans for 10 minutes.

In a large pot, melt together on medium heat the chocolates, sugars, pecans, milk, butter, cinnamon, orange zest, Cayenne and sea salt, stirring occasionally. Place a candy thermometer in the pot to monitor the heat. When it reaches 235 degrees, remove from fire and add the vanilla and stir the pot for two minutes. There should be a bit of shine to the candy but the candy will be a bit more thick.

Scoop pralines onto parchment paper. (If it’s too stiff, add warm water to mixture.) Let cool for an hour and remove. They will still be a bit shiny but will lose that shine after a few hours. No matter, they're still delicious!

Depending on how large your scoops may be, this makes about 20 pralines. They will keep for five days.

Note: If you want to add bacon to these, I’d fry up four slices, crumble them and stir into praline when you add the vanilla.

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37 comments:

The Editor said...

Sounds delicious, though I'm always nervous when I hear a candy thermometer being used!

boscodagama said...

Shoot, haven't stopped in Valentine since the 1970s. Once in the 1960s I watched a family make adobe bricks there..

Those pralines sound great..

Screwed Up Texan said...

I never use a candy thermometer (mostly because my kids keep breaking the ones I buy), but I have good luck with the cold water method. Pralines aren't too hard to make as long as you remember to stop cooking right before the soft ball stage and read the directions all the way through. Now for pralines with bacon...why I've never heard of such a thing. Interesting. I may just try this out. I made Dr Pepper peanut pralines a couple days ago and they were FANTASTIC.

Miss Meat and Potatoes said...

Wow - the ones in the pic sure look gorgeous anyway. And I'm fascinated by old cookbooks too! It always amazes me to see current food trends having happened 50+ years ago. Just like fashion, I guess. Have you tried the bacon pralines at The Redhead?

Leslie said...

I have a question. pretty sure my mexican chocolate is a powder, can that be substituted and if so, how much?

Kitchen Vixen said...

These look delicious! I'm sure you're way ahead of me on this, but if you're looking to try a bacon praline again, the Buttermilk Bacon Pralines in Screen Doors and Sweet Tea, by Martha Hall Foose, are divine.

Karen said...

Making candy is not my thing, but these do look, and sound, really good. I like the cayenne pepper in there, too.

Kate said...

Well, hell. I have all those ingredients on hand, what a fine snow day activity!

Thanks for sharing (especially the bit about the first go-round with your pals.)

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

The Editor--Don't be nervous. You could just let it come to a boil and let it do that for a couple of minutes then stir it, it just wouldn't be as accurate.

Boscodagama--What a great memory!

Screwd Up Texan--Thanks for the tip! I know my aunts and grandmas never use a thermometer either. I've made Dr Pepper peanut brittle, but I love the idea of your pralines!

Miss Meat and Potatoes--I haven't--I'll definitely have to get some next time I'm there.

Leslie--Hmmmm, I'm using Mexican hot chocolate that comes in a disc. There are a few brands of Mexican hot chocolate in discs, but Ibarra is my favorite. I don't think I've ever seen it as a powder. But if it's crushed cacao nibs, sugar and cinnamon that could work. I'd use enough to make three cups.

Kitchen Vixen--You know, I have her book but I have not made those. Thanks for the heads up--I'll check it out!

Karen--Pralines are really easy. You should try it!

Kate--It's a perfect snow-day activity.

grace said...

to be concise, these are pralines perfected. lovely. :)

my spatula said...

wowzas! i'm so impressed...these look dangerously addictive.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Grace--Thank you!

My Spatula--Oh, they are!

Tasty Eats At Home said...

These look like my new favorite dessert ever. I love pecan pralines, and I think I'd love these even more - especially with the Ibarra!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Tasty Eats at Home--Ibarra makes anything wonderful!

Aaron said...

I just wanted to say that I disovered your website and am excited to read every bit of it. I live in Montana and get that homesick feeling for Texas and the food I can't get up here. Growing up in Brenham I can say I miss Blue Bell alot. I made these pralines last night(a double batch). Brought some to work where my coworkers are now mad at me because they can't stop eating them. I also kept some at home for myself. Thanks again.

~Aaron

lisa said...

These are beauties! I love a little orange zest in a chocolate confection, and the cinnamon and cayenne sound great too.

Joycee said...

I am loving Homesick Texan! So far this week I've made the buttermilk biscuits, folding those are a stroke of genius...the puffy tacos, Lord help us now that I know how to make them...and the migas, heaven! We lived near San Antonio a few years ago so I know good food. As soon as I started reading I knew these recipes were the real thing. You definately should do a cookbook. You could give Pioneer Woman a run for her money! Come for a visit, I blog about Texas a lot even though we live in the Ozarks...
http://grannymountain.blogspot.com

apronless said...

Ok, the burning question here is do you say PRAH-leens, or PRAY-leens?

I made a ton of pralines a few years ago for gifts and these look like they would be even better than the buttermilk ones I did. If it wasn't almost 10p I might try these. Yum.

PS: I love the textures in the first photo.

Bacon Lover said...

These look delicious!

I made the bacon pralines from Screen Doors and Sweet Tea (via the Ezra Pound Cake blog), but I substituted i tbsp of bacon fat for 1 tbsp of the butter, and I think it did make them more bacon-y. They were a hit at my office.

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Aaron--Excellent news! I'm so pleased your co-workers loved the Mexican chocolate pralines!

Lisa--I agree, orange zest and chocolate is a beautiful combination.

Joycee--Aw, thank you! And pleased and honored your enjoying the site!

Apronless--I say PRAY-leen. You?

Bacon Lover--I seriously need to try that recipe. And I love that you replaced a bit of the butter with bacon grease. Wow!

beverly said...

I made a double batch too. Second turned out perfect. Okay, my friends loved these. The orange, cayenne, cinnamon combo is so interesting. TWO people identified the flavor as ginger. I love the boost the cayenne gives the cinnamon and the orange just rounds it all out. Dangerous stuff but perfect for a valentines sweetheart. Just the right spicy.

Chiara "Kika" Assi said...

I love spicy dark chocolate it's my favorite combination of flavors!

heather @ chiknpastry said...

oh man these look great! i haven't used bacon in a dessert before although you're right, there has abeen a LOT of hype about it lately!

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

That looks so wonderful. I wanted to make something special this weekend...and chocolate so I googled Chocolate pie and found your blog and Grandma's chocolate pie! I posted about it on my blog today! Thanks for the GREAT recipe! Hope you can stop by! ♥
http://lavenderdreamstoo.blogspot.com/

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Beverly--I'm so happy y'all enjoyed them! And they are indeed dangerously addictive!

Wine of the Month Club--I love Mexican chocolate ice cream! Will have to stop into Polar Bear next time I'm in Santa Cruz.

Chiara "Kika" Assi--Isn't it grand? I agree!

Heather--Try it, it seems strange but the salty and smoky pairs nicely with the sweet.

Lavender Dreamer--Oh, yay! I'll let Grandma know how much you enjoyed her chocolate pie recipe!

"Pink Party Girl" said...

Okay, I'm a proud Texan headed to Tennesse this weekend to visit my college daughter. As in the past, I like to cook up our Tex-Mex favorites for all her friends, who love it! Last year, I made a Texas Chocolate Sheet Cake for dessert.
This year it just HAS to be the Mexican Chocolate Pralines! Ironically, I have a box of Mexican choc. discs but haven't figured out what to use them for - Now I know!

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Pink Party Girl--Her friends will love you, and it's a wonderful way to use up some discs!

Erin said...

Wow- these look so good! I love making pralines, and I'm definitely trying these out!

azelia said...

These look good and wouldn't mind giving them a try but how much is a disc of Mexican hot chocolate in English Terms?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Erin--Enjoy!

Azelia--It's about 3.5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate.

Tasty Eats At Home said...

Lisa, I'm making these for the second time, and I have to say, they are my new addiction. Yum. Question - do you think that they could be frozen for a few weeks?

Jodi said...

Lisa,

Thanks SO MUCH for sharing this recipe. I have made your Mexican chocolate pralines twice for my family and friends. So easy and just the best. Think this may be my go to dessert/party treat for the year.

For those who might be close to a Central Market (I was back in TX when I made these for the first time), you can buy all the spices in the bulk section. CM keeps the orange zest in back so be sure and ask.

All the best!
Jodi
Boston via Dallas

Kitchen Butterfly said...

I'll be very upset tomorrow....if I don't find a candy thermometer!!!!!!!!! Love these....

bevvbevv said...

I'm another Beverly (hi out there!) and I saw these after having talked about pralines with my mom and godsister, commented on pralines on someone else's blog and suffered intense praline cravings. My oh my. While these are not the stuff of my childhood (my godmother would have shied away from cayenne in sweets), these are DIVINE. It was also my first time using a candy thermometer, and I survived! I'm taking these to book club and intend to make another batch next week. Also, since I am still in Texas (lucky me), I stopped by a Mexican food market and got some piloncillo, a cane sugar, and used that in place of the brown sugar. I think it adds an interesting subtle flavor, but that's just me.

Thank you SO much for posting these! I'm off to discover more wonderful things on your blog!

Karen said...

Mmmmm....I made these a couple of weeks ago and loved them! They are addictive, so give some away and save yourself! I love your blog!

Chelsey said...

These sound devilishly good. I am salivating just thinking about them. If I don't have access to a Mexican chocolate disc what chocolate and how much of it could I use instead?

Lisa (Homesick Texan) said...

Chelsey--I'd use 3.5 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate and throw in an extra 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.

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