Nothing says Mardi Gras party quite like the sweet chewy bite of pecan praline cookies! These bake up quick and easy, lighter than air, but with the rich taste of brown sugar and toasted pecans.
When I talk about home, I have a few places that fit that description. Dubai, where I live right now; Houston, which I call my hometown because it’s the place I’ve lived the longest at one stretch – the years from fourth to 12th grade; and New Iberia, Louisiana, where I was born and where my mom made sure we went every time she could find three days off in a row. Christmas, spring break, Easter, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, etc. You get the picture.
New Iberia was not just where I was born. It is also where both of my parents grew up, where almost all of my extended family still live. Cajun country. Home of good and spicy home cooked food, heavily laden pecan, and fig trees, fields of sugar cane and elderly relatives who spoke French before they learned English in school and loved to pinch my cheeks.
We stayed with my maternal grandparents but my father’s mother lived just a block or so away so every morning before anyone else was up, I’d pull on shorts and a t-shirt, slip out of the front door and walk to my grandmother’s house. She didn’t seem to sleep much, was always up before the birds, so I knew I’d find hot coffee milk and something good for breakfast in her warm kitchen.
Occasionally we’d make the long drive all the way to New Orleans to visit my Aunt Karen, my mom’s closest sister. New Orleans meant fun with my younger cousins, beignets in the French Quarter and, if the timing was right, Mardi Gras parades. What a thrill it was to stake out a spot on the parade route and see that first festive float roll slowly into view! “Throw me something, mister!” we’d shout, jumping wildly, wrapping the beads around our wrists like bracelets and draping them around our necks. I was richer than Midas, more brilliantly festooned than the most famous queens of history, never mind the short shorts and skinned knees of a tomboy childhood.
Some of my fondest memories over these last 50 plus years are steeped in Louisiana history where native pecans feature prominently in many baked goods. When my grandparents were still around, I could count on them for a steady supply of freshly shelled Louisiana pecans, which they’d crack and pick, putting aside bags for the whole family. Now when I’m home, I buy them from a farmer’s market and bring them back to Dubai, storing them – carefully sealed – in the freezer for great recipes such as this one.
Recipe credit goes to Eva Schexnayder who shared these pecan praline cookies in a charity cookbook* sold to benefit Shadows-on-the-Teche, an antebellum mansion and National Trust for Historic Preservation property on the banks of the Bayou Teche in New Iberia. If you ever get down that way, I highly recommend a visit.
Pecan Praline Cookies
- 1 egg white
- 1 cup brown sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 2 cups pecans chopped
- Preheat your oven to 275°F or 135°C and line your cookie sheets with baking parchment or silicone liners.
- Beat your egg white in a clean mixing bowl until stiff peaks form.
- Mix in the brown sugar.
- Fold in the chopped pecans and the vanilla.
- Drop by heaped teaspoons on to the prepared cookie sheets.
- Bake for 23-28 minutes or until puffy and cooked through.
- Leave to cool for a few minutes and then transfer with a spatula to a wire rack to cool completely.
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