BEARTRICE. Is that so?
MAKEDA! Bring us hot tea and beignets.
MAKEDA. (off-stage) We ain’t got no more beignets, madame!
BEARTRICE. Then serve praw-leans! We can’t have tea without sweets.
The House That Will Not Stand, Marcus Gardley
Although very much a play (as opposed to a novel), The House That Will Not Stand will remain for me a beautiful piece of prose as well as a great production. After all, I did read it before seeing it on stage. Despite reading plays relatively regularly as part of my job, I sometimes find them a little tricky to get into. By their very nature, they're meant to be performed, and there is something lacking in the voices I bestow on the characters in my head - perhaps I'm just a bit of a poor actress. However, I enjoyed reading The House so much that I read it twice. And then a third time. Marcus Gardley's gift is his way with words - there's a true sense of place and character conjured up in the rich language. Despite my patchy historic knowledge, the play, set in 1836 in New Orleans, felt immediately and viscerally real.
For those of you who have not been to the Fancy a Taste? page, you may not know that I have another life (away from cakes) in the theatre; I work with schools and young people at a theatre in North London. Tomorrow evening, The House That Will Not Standwill close here after a brilliant run. I felt it was fitting for this post to feature the cake I made for the wonderful company on Press Night five weeks ago. I topped this chocolate cake (minus the ginger, and with rum instead of milk in the icing - yum) with the pralines, and we demolished it at 1am after a night of raucous dancing.
Makes around 25 pieces
210g light brown sugar
90g granulated sugar
125mL double cream
1. Place the sugars, water and butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, stirring constantly, until the mixture reaches 114C.
2. Take the pan off the heat, add the cream and chopped pecan nuts and stir vigorously until the mixture cools, and the pecans are suspended through the praline, rather than sinking to the bottom. This should take around two minutes. Pour the whole sugary mess onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper and allow to cool completely before cutting/breaking into shards. If you're giving jars of this as a gift, you can also spoon individual rounds onto the baking tray.
A little note - these pralines are nothing like the French praline that I'm more used to, one I've made before and (once blitzed to smithereens in a food processor) used to decorate cakes or stir through a crumble topping. The whole point with the New Orleans pralines is to stir the mixture, and encourage the sugar to crystallise. The product is a rich, buttery, soft praline - one you won't break your teeth on (but that no dentist would ever thank you for consuming).