Line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper. Have 2 small spoons ready for scooping. Bring the cream, sugar, corn syrup and orange zest to a gentle simmer in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally with a whisk or wooden spoon (do not let the cream mixture boil over). Simmer, stirring, until the mixture is thickened and light brown in color and a candy thermometer registers 240 degrees F (soft-ball stage), 20 to 30 minutes (start by stirring occasionally, then switch to stirring constantly when the mixture starts to stick to the bottom of the pan). Stir in the pecans and salt; the temperature will drop at least 5 degrees F to 10 degrees F.
Continue to simmer, stirring, until the mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the pan (the thermometer should register 246 degrees F to 247 degrees F). To test for doneness, drop a quarter-size amount onto a prepared baking sheet: The mixture should hold a rounded shape and look dull; if it runs out flat, continue cooking.
Use the small spoons to spoon about quarter-size mounds of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheets. Let sit until cool, set and dry, 30 minutes to 1 hour. If the pralines are still too soft to pick up after a few hours, let them sit in a cool, dry place, uncovered, for 1 or 2 days. Once dry, store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Photograph by Charles Masters
Courtesy of Food Network Magazine
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