(Note: I wrote this as a blog post, sent it to our email list, then forgot to post it. The season of forgetfulness. I'm posting at this point for posterity and cooks.)
It just dawned on me that, in four years of writing a PGP blog, I have never once included a recipe.
How can you have any idea what we are up to without a recipe? (Plus my friend Paul, for some reason, used to find amusement in the parentheticals of my recipe-writing style. They are not intended to be funny.)
So here's my very own recipe for the Praline Nuts I used in (yet another) batch of Pecan Bourbon granola yesterday. (Our granola has honey, so it's not technically vegan to purists, but for the sake of shelf life, we don't use dairy. The nuts are vegan, but that word doesn't always sound great in recipes. (I wonder if there would be more vegans if someone would come up with a more appetizing word for vegan.) Let's face it, praline might be a bit better with a ton of cream and butter. This is almost more of a candied nut. We have other agendas here.)
Also, in our kitchen we use standard measures but try not to depend on them. We've marked transparent containers with lines (the "oats" line, the "almonds" line etc.) so that recipes are certain to be consistent across communication barriers.
24 cups pecan halves (I used part halves, part large pieces)
16 cups walnut halves
16 cups Sucanat
3 cans (14oz each) organic coconut milk (unshaken)
1 jar (2 cups) e.v.coconut oil
2 cups bourbon (We always use Wild Turkey because this was originally a Thanksgiving recipe)
2-3 T vanilla
1 T salt
1. Lightly toast the nuts at about 275 (on trays) until heated through and fragrant. Mix and set aside, evenly divided in two large bowls. (The nuts taste better toasted. Plus sugar collects moisture, so it seems wise to remove surplus moisture from the whole process.)
2. Put the Sucanat in a large pan with a heavy bottom. Add salt. Scoop out the coconut oil and add.
3. Open the cans of coconut cream and add only the cream tops. Depending on the type you bought or how much you agitated them, the cream will be either very thick (like shortening) or more like molasses. But don't bother with the water at the bottom.
4. Fill the empty jar of coconut oil to about 3/4 with bourbon and add to the sugar.
5. Heat and stir at medium until all crystals melt, then let it boil.
6. Watch, wait, and enjoy the smell. Stir occasionally. It's okay to go do other things, but turn the heat down first if you're going to the basement. (Depending on how small your pan is, you may need to keep a close eye on it. Sucanat likes to boil up on occasion. It seems to go through stages. If you're working with a cook, you can debate whether it's better to add the oil in separately after the sugar crystals have melted. If you're at home you could try sipping the extra bourbon.) Line some large trays with parchment paper to cool the nuts on later.
7. Boil to a hard-ish soft ball stage. The sugar will darken to a molasses color and thicken. You can test by dripping some into cold water. If you can remove a ball from the water and roll it around between your thumb and fingers without too much give, that's ideal. If using a candy thermometer, I would guess it's about 239 or 240. I tend to like it harder than typical praline because we're essentially candying the nuts and want the flavor to stick to them within the demanding environment of a bowla granola. Plus we're adding more bourbon at the end which could soften it. Turn off the burner.
8. Add 2-3 T of vanilla and the remaining 1/4 cup bourbon. Stir--then let it sit for about ten minutes. (And take care whenever adding alcohol to hot sugar. Things can get a little crazy.) Some people add the nuts at this stage. I prefer to let the sugar cool slightly first so that the nuts incur minimal stirring damage.
9. Start stirring vigorously--for a minute or so--then add half the sugar to half the nuts. Just estimate. If you have help, you can add the other half to the other bowl of nuts and do this in tandem. Otherwise work in stages. Vigorously stir until the nuts/sugar combo starts to lighten in color and get a bit grainy.
10. Quickly dump the nuts out on the lined trays. If you do it right they will separate easily. Cool.
This should be enough nuts for a 120 pound batch of granola. If adding to granola, wait until right before the granola's done baking. (Use approximately 1 cup per 3.5 lbs of granola.) Mix it around and put it back in the oven. That way the praline starts to melt and bonds with the surrounding granola. Add the remaining nuts after the granola has cooled.
If you plan to serve the nuts as a stand alone, I would consider dusting them with a tiny bit of powdered red pepper (or add a tiny bit--like a 1/3 t total--to the hot sugar right before your stir it into the nuts.) Not so much that anyone would really notice--it just gives the nuts a little more character.
Of course, if you prefer not to make your own, we now have a completely fresh batch that you can order right here. And if you order today, you still qualify for the $3 off LASTMINUTE coupon. We ship priority, so it's guaranteed to arrive before New Years--maybe even by Christmas.
With lots of love from PGP,