Heading down to the beach (for us Alabama folks, that usually means Gulf Shores, or maybe over to Destin) on I-65 South, I always had to get off at the Fort Deposit exit and stop at Priester's Pecans for some Fiddlesticks or one of their amazing pralines.
Pralines hail from 17th-century France, but the American version, a trademark of New Orleans, contains milk or cream, yielding a creamy, fudge-like texture. The French version uses almonds, where the American version uses pecans, plentiful (but still outrageously expensive this year!) in the South.
Buttermilk. Bacon. Pralines. Three things so incredibly Southern, finally put together into a perfect bite-sized treat. The tang of the buttermilk complements the salty bacon so incredibly well. You won't be able to stop at just one; I promise.
Buttermilk Bacon Pralines
adapted from Martha Hall Foose's "Screen Doors & Sweet Tea"
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp kosher salt
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp grated orange or lemon zest
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
4 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled
In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, combine the sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, buttermilk, baking soda and kosher salt. Cook over medium heat for about 20 minutes, or until the mixture reaches the soft-ball stage, 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
Remove from heat and stir in the butter, vanilla, orange zest, pecans and bacon. Beat vigorously with a wooden spoon until creamy and smooth.
Drop the praline mixture by teaspoonfuls onto a silicone baking mat; if you don't have one, simply use buttered parchment or wax paper. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or until cooled. Store in an airtight container.