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Pecan Praline – Christmas In The Rearview Mirror

Christmas is done and dusted. The ham has been consumed or frozen for later use, the last delicious morsels of shortbread eaten and if you’re anything like me, the forgotten plum pudding has been stored for ‘Christmas in July’ use later in the year. The other thing I have a lot of, is nuts. Usually very popular on Christmas Day I had perhaps underestimated the laziness of a generation who had to actually crack the nuts rather than simply snip open a bag.  At the end of the day, there were very few shells for the compost.

Why do we eat nuts at Christmas? Nuts are seasonal and would have been harvested before the cold set in, to provide a source of food through the long dark winters of the Northern Hemisphere. They are high in protein and fat and every little bit would have counted when the snow was deep and crisp and even. Those great lovers of a refined party, The Victorians, introduced many of the concepts we identify with our Christmas celebrations of today. The Christmas tree, Christmas crackers, fruit mince pies, roast turkey and the giving of gifts on Christmas rather than New Year’s Day. Originally these gifts were small trifles – incidentally, trifle with cream, jelly and custard as we know it today is also a Victorian invention – such as fruit, nuts and handmade love tokens. Gilded walnuts also decorated the tree. So it seems somewhere between eking out an existence in the frozen countryside and elegant gatherings to celebrate imported Germanic Christmas traditions, the nut secured itself at the centre of the festive table.

Coloured Victorian plate for the rhyme 'I Had A Little Nut Tree'. A girl in white curtsies to a regal figure in orange, with a crown. A nut tree is in between.

Though nuts are an autumnal crop and Christmas is celebrated in the Southern Hemisphere in summer, you can’t keep a good tradition down. I have cracked most of the nuts now and stored them the freezer in zip lock bags for use throughout the year but decided to make up some praline with the pecans. Pecans and any type of sugar concoction are a match made in heaven. The completed praline can be stirred into ice cream, scattered over an iced cake, ground finely in a food processor for inclusion in chocolates, eaten directly from the container…

Pecan Praline

Pecan nuts in toffee on a tray.


  • 1 cup shelled pecans (or other fresh nuts)
  • 1 cup caster sugar
  • ¼ cup water


Warning! This recipes involves hot sugar syrup so please be careful as sugar burns are serious.

  • Place the pecans or other nuts on baking paper on a tray and put into an 180c preheated oven. Roast for 8 – 10 minutes (watch to make sure the nuts don’t scorch). Pecans are a very soft nut and will take less time to roast than a dense nut like an almond, which may need several more minutes.
  • Remove nuts from the oven and allow to cool.
  • Place sugar and water in a small saucepan and gently heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Once dissolved, turn up the heat and bring liquid to the boil for around 4 – 6 minutes.
  • Watch the boiling toffee. It will turn from clear to pale gold to golden amber in a matter of moments. The minute it starts to darken, remove it from the heat as it will continue to brown in the saucepan.
  • Carefully pour the toffee over the tray of nuts, trying to cover as many nuts as possible.
  • Set tray aside to allow toffee to cool and place empty saucepan in sink and fill with cold water to allow sugar coating to dissolve.
  • When the toffee has cooled and set (around 10 minutes), break the pecan praline into big or small pieces or chop coarsely with a knife.
  • Store pecan praline in airtight container for future use (see note* below).
Pecan praline on a tray with a knife. Some of the praline is chopped small whilst the rest is in a solid sheet on the tray.

*For those living in humid conditions, pop some extra insurance into the container in the form of a silica gel sachet from an old vitamin jar. This will help to absorb extra moisture and reduce the chances of the toffee becoming a sticky mess.


10 comments… add one
  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime January 9, 2016, 3:01 pm

    I stopped buying whole nuts as they were too much of a mission to crack open. I’m going to try your tip with the silica gel for sure 😀

    • Fiona Ryan January 10, 2016, 10:34 am

      Normally only a purchase at Christmas though I do bring back a bag of walnuts from the Barossa when we visit as you can’t get local ones this far north. I love buying them but the cracking of such a large bag is indeed a pain in the proverbial.

  • Stephanie-The Dessert Spoon January 10, 2016, 10:43 am

    I love praline! It’s one of my favourites. It makes a good gift too.

    The silica gel sachet is a great tip! I’ve been storing the praline in the fridge.

    Happy new year!

    • Fiona Ryan January 12, 2016, 8:23 pm

      Well that tip seems very popular in the humid climes… I’ll have to do a ‘Top 7 tips about cooking in the tropics.’

  • Glenda January 11, 2016, 12:50 am

    Hi Fiona, that sounds very nice indeed. I can remember when cashews were reserved for Christmas. That is the down side of a wealthy economy. We can afford to buy whatever we want when ever we want it. There is nothing reserved for special occasions.

    • Fiona Ryan January 12, 2016, 8:24 pm

      Agreed. Even Danish Butter Cookies are a year round treat (though still only Christmas in our house).

  • Lisa January 11, 2016, 8:33 pm

    The silica gel is a great tip. I was craving a piece of good pecan pie today but I couldn’t find one. Now I’m craving pecan praline. Just cannot win 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan January 12, 2016, 8:25 pm

      Well you’re going to have to make it. (Should have trademarked that tip!)

  • Liz (Good Things) January 29, 2016, 7:17 am

    Isn’t is amazing how well they store in the freezer!

    • Fiona Ryan January 31, 2016, 11:37 am

      Yes Liz – I freeze everything except whole eggs.

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