Tag Archives: candy

85. Divinity (the candy, not the state of being)

9 Mar

Ever since I wrote about pralines, I can’t stop thinking about that candy’s brother by another mother, divinity.

This was one of the very first things I learned to make, but seeing as I haven’t attempted it in probably a quarter century, I’m likely a little rusty on the topic.

If I recall correctly (and my sister will surely let me know if I do not) making divinity was something we’d do to pass the time between church on Sunday morning and “training union” (AKA church) on Sunday night. Perhaps it turns out better if you make it on the Lord’s day. Also, when it’s not raining.

If you’re wondering how the candy came to be known as divinity, try a piece. If you still can’t tell, well, I just can’t help you.

How to describe divinity…It’s sort of a sweet meringue confection that just melts in your mouth. The ethereal quality is balanced by the pecan half on top. That ideal sweet/savory combination that Southerners invented. Ok, maybe we didn’t invent it, but we’re firm believers. Who else would put salt on watermelon or use soft serve ice cream as a dipping sauce for French fries? Tell me I’m not the only one.

You used to find divinity at Stuckey’s, but I don’t remember if it’s any good. Besides which, from what I hear Stuckey’s are disappearing more quickly than Charlie Sheen’s rational thoughts.

I haven’t encountered divinity or anything like it between here and Los Angeles. Does it even exist above the Mason-Dixon?

I’m sure you could find at least one or two recipes for divinity in any Southern community cookbook you happen to have lying around. But in case you don’t have one, I went to the trouble of googling for you and found Paula Deen’s recipe “Mama’s Divinity.” This will be the one I try next, except I will leave out the pecans in the candy and just put a pecan half on top. (P.S. Can y’all believe there’s a Paula Deen recipe that doesn’t start with a “sticka butter”?)

If you’re not the DIY type and aren’t in the vicinity of a divinity seller, you can always mail order from Savanna Candy. I haven’t tried their version, but it was the best divinity photo on all of the interwebs. Believe me, I looked.

Photo: Divinity by Savanna Candy.

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76. Pralines (Don’t Even Think About Adding Walnuts)

22 Feb

That about sums it up...

First, let me specify: I am writing about PRAW-leens. I’ve never eaten anything called a PRAY-leen. Most especially, not a PEE-can PRAY-leen. In fact, I can’t believe I just wrote that. Now I have the word “PEE-can PRAY-leen” stuck in my brain in the manner of a Barry Manilow song. Oh, wait, now the phrase has been usurped by “Mandy.” ACK!

Recently one of my readers (who just so happens to have two first names) asked about a good recipe for pralines. I’ll be sharing one in this post, but first I’m going to sing the praises of one of the world’s greatest candies.

Pralines represent three of my favorite food groups: Butter, sugar, and nuts. Not necessarily in that order.

I dare anyone with a sweet tooth to walk by Aunt Sally’s Pralines in the French Quarter of New Orleans without stopping in to sample a warm praline. Caution: like heroin, pralines can be addictive after the very first taste. However, unlike heroin, you will not end up emaciated after prolonged use. Quite the opposite, actually.

Fortunately, Aunt Sally’s website features a 1-800 number “praline hotline.” Which I reckon is a lifesaver for those experiencing a praline-related emergency.

If you’re looking for an immediate fix and can’t find a nearby purveyor of pralines, you could stop by Baskin Robbins for a scoop of Pralines ‘n Cream ice cream. The downside: you won’t be able to appreciate a praline in its singular glory. The upside: hello! Ice cream!

One of the best parts of Christmas for me was the smorgasbord of candies my mom always used to make: toffee, coconut balls, white fudge, haystacks, and pralines. Even when she wasn’t able to stand for long, she’d pull the folding kitchen ladder up to the stove to sit and stir. And if she didn’t have the stamina to tackle everything, she’d insist on making pralines because they’re my brother Mike’s favorite.

It wasn’t until after my sister and I took over the candy-making role that I truly appreciated what a GIFT my mother had given us all those years. Candy making is a time-consuming, frustration-producing, often-disappointing pain in the ass. The only fuel that enables one to power through a marathon sweet-making session is love. (Of candy itself and/or the folks you’re making it for. In the South, it’s usually both.)

I have never attempted praline-making myself, but if you want to give it a shot, here’s my mom’s recipe:

Pralines

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup (1 small can) evaporated milk
1/2 stick butter
small pinch soda
1 T Karo syrup
1 t vanilla
1 cup pecan halves

Cook sugars, Karo, milk and soda to soft ball stage or 235 degrees. Remove from heat and add butter. Return to heat until butter is melted. Take off stove and add vanilla. Beat until it begins to thicken. Add nuts and place in little patties on waxed paper.

Bonus: You’ll find the recipe for the scrumptious looking pralines pictured above at Dixie Caviar.

Note: If you’ve never attempted candy-making, these candy-making tips may help you avert disaster.

Photo credits: Southern Candymakers sign by Wally Gobetz, Flickr Creative Commons, Yummy plate ‘o pralines courtesy of Dixie Caviar.

What’s your favorite traditional Southern treat?

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