1965 Pralines

Welp, here is the second most stressful recipe I’ve made for this blog. I’m a stranger to candy making, so a vintage recipe written by a grandma who overestimated my talent wasn’t the best resource. But that challenge is one of the reasons why we love retro recipes, right?

This weekend I hosted a treat exchange with some of my friends. We had mulled wine, coffee, and too many sweet treats. Truffles, red velvet brownies, puppy chow, and my plops of pralines. I thought I would get a head start on the pralines an hour before my friends were set to arrive so that I could focus more on my mulled wine than candy making. OOOH BOY. I had no idea that candy making could be that stressful! The recipe seemed so straight forward, simple ingredients and just a few lines of instruction. I thought it would be a cake walk (pun absolutely intended). One of the instructions claims that the mixture was done when “a drop forms a ball in cold water.” OKAY SURE. If you second guess everything like me, then this is a nightmare. Does that glob suspended in ice water resemble a ball??? Does the water need to have ice cubes? What is considered cold?

I have to admit, I cheated a bit with this one. I usually stick with the retro recipe instructions and bumble my way through it. However, this recipe included a dash of social anxiety. My friends were here, and this was a treat exchange! I looked up the approximate temperature praline mixture was supposed to be (around 240° F). I don’t have a candy thermometer, but I do have a laser temperature reader. At around 220°F and one mug of mulled cider, I mixed in the pecans and spooned the mixture onto wax paper. I thought it was a disaster, they weren’t setting. How long was that supposed to take?!

However, Santa (or the cold temps of my drafty old house) worked some magic on the gloopy globs over night. It was like Christmas morning. The pralines set! They aren’t pretty, but they’re buttery and sugary and delicious. Plus two were missing this morning, so they passed my husband’s taste test at least.

The best part of the day was, of course, spending time connecting with my friends and enjoying the season. And their baked goods 😉

Learn from my mistakes, and maybe give them a try! This recipe come from the Cedar Rapids Symphony of Holiday Cooking 1965 cookbook, which I’ll be using for the rest of December. With the increase in holiday cooking and baking, I’ll be posting more recipes this week. This week’s posts will have a few less references to local history, but no fear history buffs! Get ready for a full post on longtime radio homemaker Evelyn Birkby in early 2018!


  • 3/4 cup of brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of evaporated milk
  • 1 tablespoon of butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 1 cup of pecans
  1. Mix milk and sugar and bring to a boil
  2. Lower flame and cook until drop forms a ball in cold water (this doesn’t take too long) (If you want to cheat like me, wait until the mixture gets to be about 240°F, around 20 minutes)
  3. Remove mixture from heat
  4. Add butter, vanilla, and pecans. Using a wooden spoon, beat until slightly creamy.
  5. Drop by spoonfuls onto wax paper.
  6. If mixture hardens quickly, put pan in warm water. (I let these set overnight because I slightly undercooked them, it shouldn’t take that long for expert candy-makers like yourself).

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