It doesn't get much more Southern than pralines. Well, at least this type of praline. There are tons of variations and permutations of pralines around the world. Pralines in Belgium are essentially bonbons. Praline in France is a combination of finely chopped almonds and caramelized sugar. It's often ground up and incorporated into other confections. Southern pralines are a lot like fudge, at least in their composition. There's one really big difference, though, and it lies in the stirring.
Alton Brown did a really great episode of "Good Eats" about fudge. It gives a really great explanation on what makes a nice, creamy fudge. It basically boils down to lack of stirring, and, thusly, lack of sugar crystals. In candy making stirring = sugar crystals. Pralines use the opposite approach -- lots of stirring and lots of sugar crystals. Those sugar crystals give Southern pralines their very distinctive texture, and the texture is my very favorite thing about pralines.
Thinking about the different types of pralines got me thinking about doing a different spin on the traditional Southern praline. The basic praline recipe consists of sugar, butter, milk or cream, and nuts. I figured I could switch out the cream for coconut milk. No problems there. While I was at it, I also switched the pecans out for some coconut. So long as the sugar reaches soft ball stage and all the stirring happens, you still get pralines. I love that about candy making. These are all coconut, creamy, sugary goodness. Even the folks at work that don't really care for coconut were going back for seconds and thirds. I call that a big thumbs up.
makes about 50 pralines
3 cups sugar
1 cup coconut milk
1 3/4 cups shredded coconut
1 Tbsp butter
In a large skillet or dutch oven, combine the sugar, coconut milk, and coconut over medium heat. Stir constantly until the mixture reaches soft ball stage (236°). Remove from the heat and stir in the butter. Stir until the butter is melted and combined. Let the mixture cool for 20-30 minutes. Stir the mixture vigorously with a wooden spoon until the mixture is creamy and no longer shiny. Drop by spoonfuls onto waxed paper. Let sit at room temperature until completely cool and set.