Serious Eats: Talk

So Apparently You Can't Make Candy Without a Candy Thermometer..

At least not without a fire extinguisher handy.

I decided to spend my Sunday afternoon making pralines, but I don't have a thermometer. The recipe I used said to bring the brown sugar mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until "soft ball consistency." Sure, there was also a temperature next to it, but I figure "soft ball consistency" meant stir until thickened enough to roll into a soft ball, right? Wrong. Very, very wrong.

Fortunately, thanks to a lot of scrubbing, I think my Calphalon is saved. But my question is what the criz is soft ball consistency, and is it possible to reach without a thermometer?! The mixture seemed to go from nice brown bubbling to raging black volcano in a matter of seconds, so how do I judge?

Also, if anyone has any thermometer-less recipes for pralines or other crunchy pecan-ey delicious treats, please share!

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