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Maple Rum Walnut Pralines

  There used to be a little candy/nut shop in our local mall, and it wasn't there nearly long enough.  No matter what time of year it was, I went by that place and felt fall.  Something about the aroma of roasting pecans does that.

  I loved walking through there, just enjoying the smells.  It was a trip usually done with my papa, who always got me just a little something.  Lollipops, jelly beans, chocolates, caramels...and don't forget the salt water taffy.  Never forget salt water taffy.

  I've always loved those little tucked-in-the-corner candy shops, and just candy shops in general.  I read Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory so many times when I was little, so I partly blame Roald Dahl for this subsequent fascination with all things sweet.

  While the shops that I've seen in my life have been lovely, I mostly remember them based off of who I was with.  The little mall shop with my dad where I first tasted a freshly-roasted cashew, a tourist-y one with my sisters where I had some delightful fudge, a cute little one in Two Harbors with my family, a hidden-away caramel shop with my good friend where laughter and cashew turtles filled the ride home, a tiny chocolate place with my mother, a local sweet shared with my aunt and grandma...they're all special not just because of the treats consumed, but because of the people I was with.

  These walnut pralines are butter-y, rich, and bursting with nostalgia.  They're meant to be eaten thoughtfully and slowly, and then given away to friends.

Maple Rum Walnut Pralines
Yield: 12-16 pralines

  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon dark rum
  • 2 cups walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or foil, set aside.

In a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the brown sugar, granulated sugar, salt, heavy cream, seeds scraped from the vanilla bean (discard pod or save for other use), maple syrup, and rum.  Place over medium heat and heat to boiling.  Turn the heat to low and continue cooking until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is smooth and bubbly.  Add the walnuts and butter and cook, stirring, until the butter is melted.  Let mixture cook at a rolling simmer for 5 more minutes. 

Remove from heat and allow to cool in the pan for 12-15 minutes.  This will help the mixture solidify enough so it can be scooped into pralines.

Once cooled, use a tablespoon to generously spoon out portions onto the prepared pans.  They will be chunky, with walnuts piling atop each other.  Let pralines cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before attempting to remove from pan.  They are quite soft.

Pralines will keep in an airtight container for up to a week (It's best to separate the layers with wax paper, if you're piling them.)

Sources: adapted from Joy the Baker's Cookbook