- In a medium-sized heavy saucepan bring brown sugar, cream, and butter to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to make sure sides of pan are clean of sugar granules.
- Using a candy thermometer (how did my grandmothers ever use the ice water method for making candy?!) bring the concoction to soft ball stage; 236 degrees is fine. Remove pan from heat and let cool to 150 degrees.
- Add vanilla, pecans, and coconut (if using). Stir together for 2−3 minutes, until it starts to lose its gloss. Now work fast because it will start to set up, but it’s hot, so be careful! Spoon out tablespoon-sized dollops onto a cookie sheet covered in wax or parchment paper and let cool. Using 2 opposing spoons helps get the pralines off the spoons onto the paper. Or for a much cleaner shape of the candy, spoon the mixture into fluted paper cups and then turn them out when cooled. Store candy in airtight tin. Use within 2 or 3 days.