Chef John Folse's Creamy Pralines

Prep Time: 1 Hour 
Yields: Approximately 2 dozen large or 35 small pralines

This recipe was given to me by a wonderful girl named Susan who was also a relative of the Folse clan. She made the pralines with her mother from a recipe that had been handed down through the generations. She had won many awards for this candy and after sampling the recipe, I too thought it deserved a gold medal.

5 cups white sugar
1 cup milk
1/4 cup water
4 cups chopped pecans
1 stick unsalted butter
1 tbsp vanilla
1/8 tsp maple flavoring

Line the counter-top with parchment paper or wax paper turned wax side down. You may wish to tape the corners of the paper to the counter to keep them from rolling up. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, place 4 cups of white sugar with milk over medium-high heat. Stir with a wire whisk to dissolve the sugar completely. Bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally. Do not boil. Place remaining cup of sugar in a heavy-bottomed skillet with 1/4 cup water. Place skillet over medium-high heat to brown sugar lightly into a caramel. You should swirl the skillet from time to time to keep the sugar from burning; otherwise, the over-cooked caramel will give the pralines a burnt flavor. I recommend lowering the heat on the skillet once the sugar begins to brown lightly over the heat and allow it to brown slowly. Once the caramel is done, bring the milk mixture to a boil and pour the caramel into the milk taking care not to splash. This caramel is extremely hot. Whisk the caramel quickly into the boiling milk. Lower the heat to simmer and add pecans. Cook the mixture until it reaches 240 degrees F on a candy thermometer. This temperature is the minimum needed to set the sugar into a candy. It is referred to as the soft-ball state. Once it reaches 240 degrees, remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla, and maple flavoring. Using a wooden spoon, stir continuously until butter is incorporated and pecans are suspended within the sugar mixture. Using a cooking spoon, dip the hot pecan mixture out onto the paper. Do not allow it to cool to a point where the pralines cannot be quickly dipped onto the parchment or wax paper. Allow the candy to cool completely and then place in a tin with a tight-fitting lid.