• Stumble Upon
    • Reddit
    • Digg
  • Comments
 

Bacon Gets Its Just Desserts

text size A A A
December 1, 2009

Mmmm. Smell that? It's the scent of bacon mania. There are bacon blogs, bacon cookbooks, bacon-scented air fresheners, bacon tweets and a book entitled Bacon, A Love Story. "Bacon Butties" has more than 500,000 fans on Facebook. "Bacon mania" even has its own Wikipedia entry.

About The Author

Susan Russo is a food writer in San Diego. She publishes stories, recipes and photos on her cooking blog, Food Blogga. She is working on two cookbooks (Quirk Books), which will be released in the fall of 2010. When she isn't writing about her Italian family back in Rhode Island or life with her husband in Southern California, she can be found milling around a local farmers market buying a lot more food than two people could possibly eat.

Bacon has wound its way into desserts. It is now vogue to match savory bacon with sweet dishes. There are bacon cookies, brownies and cupcakes; bacon cakes, pies and bread pudding; bacon ice cream, milkshakes and truffles; bacon chocolate bars, jellybeans and, yes, bacon baklava.

Paired sweet and salty flavors is why we love kettle corn, chocolate-covered pretzels and Snickers bars. From that perspective, chocolate-covered bacon and bacon cupcakes suddenly seem, well, right.

One of the instigators of the bacon dessert craze was chef and molecular gastronomist Heston Blumenthal of Britain's Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant. As early as 2004, Blumenthal astonished diners with his sweet and savory bacon-and-egg ice cream. News about the intriguingly odd confection quickly spread through the food world.

In New York and Los Angeles, chefs began offering couture bacon desserts with couture prices. Bacon desserts were featured at food-centric events such as the annual Fancy Food Show. In the 2006 season of Top Chef, two contestants created bacon ice cream. For many Americans, this was their introduction to bacon desserts, and they were hungry for more.

While some people become giddy at the idea of bacon chocolate chip cookies and maple-bacon cupcakes, others think bacon should stay in its rightful place: on the breakfast table next to scrambled eggs and toast.

If you're in the latter category, consider this: Marrying bacon with sweets such as chocolate, caramel and ice cream is a logical flavor pairing. Combining sweet and salty flavors has always been delicious. Paired sweet and salty flavors is why we love kettle corn, chocolate-covered pretzels and Snickers bars.

From that perspective, chocolate-covered bacon and bacon cupcakes suddenly seem, well, right. Bacon adds complexity to desserts and candies. Take ordinary chocolate brownies, for example. When made with bacon, the salty, fatty meat enhances the sweetness and intensifies the brownie's rich chocolate flavor. The subtle, smoky saltiness adds a novel yet pleasant depth of flavor to the familiar dessert.

While some food trends fall as quickly as a souffle, bacon desserts appear likely to be around for a while. They may just become your signature dessert for the new year.

Chocolate-Bacon-Peanut Bark

If you want to test the waters of bacon desserts, this recipe is for you. It's simple and illustrates the appeal of pairing salty, crunchy bacon with smooth, rich chocolate and earthy peanuts.

Chocolate-Bacon-Peanut Bark
Enlarge Susan Russo for NPR

Chocolate-Bacon-Peanut Bark
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 10 to 12 servings, depending on the size of the pieces

8 strips bacon

16 ounces semisweet chocolate (chunks or chips are fine)

1 cup unsalted peanuts

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook the bacon, turning several times, until browned and done, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Add chocolate to a double boiler. If you don't have one, fill a pan with a couple of inches of water. Place a glass bowl over the pan, making sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water underneath. Once the water begins to boil, add the chocolate chips. Using a spatula, stir continuously, until smooth and creamy.

Stir in the bacon and peanuts. Pour onto the prepared baking sheet and spread to 3/8-inch thickness. Refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour. The bark should be hard and chilled.

Place bark on a cutting board and cut into pieces — any size or shape you'd like. Serve at about room temperature.

Maple-Apple-Bacon Cake With Maple Glaze

This cake is like a dessert version of breakfast pancakes doused with maple syrup and accompanied by bacon. The moist cake is punctuated with satisfying bits of crisp bacon, tart Granny Smith apples and toasty pecans.

Maple-Apple-Bacon Cake With Maple Glaze
Enlarge Susan Russo for NPR

Maple-Apple-Bacon Cake With Maple Glaze
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 16 (2-inch) square pieces

Cake

8 strips apple-wood or maple-smoked bacon, with 2 strips reserved for garnish

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

6 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

2/3 cups sugar

2 large eggs

3/4 teaspoon maple extract

3/4 cups buttermilk

1 cup peeled, diced Granny Smith apples

1/2 cup pecans, coarsely chopped

Glaze

6 tablespoons confectioners' sugar

3 tablespoons maple syrup

A pinch of cinnamon

Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Butter, or coat with cooking spray, an 8-inch-square pan.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning several times, until browned and crisp, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely. Reserve 2 of the chopped slices for garnish.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In another large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and maple extract, and beat at medium speed until light. Reduce speed to low and add the buttermilk. Beat until well-blended. Add the dry ingredients; beat until just incorporated and the flour is dissolved. Stir in the apples, pecans and bacon.

Pour the batter into the pan and smooth out the top with a spatula. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a cake tester inserted deep into the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cool for 10 minutes. Unmold the cake and place on a rack. Cool to room temperature before icing.

In a small bowl, whisk confectioners' sugar, maple syrup and cinnamon until smooth. It should cling to the back of a spoon. Using a spoon, drizzle the icing in a back-and-forth motion across the cake. Sprinkle with the reserved 2 slices of chopped bacon. Allow to set for at least 30 minutes before slicing. Can be stored on countertop for one to two days, then refrigerated in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chip-Bacon-Pecan Cookies

Just when you thought chocolate chip cookies couldn't be improved upon, along comes bacon chocolate chip cookies. Little bits of crisp, fatty bacon melt into the sweet, soft, chocolate-studded cookie dough, making these cookies chewy, rich and addictive.

Chocolate Chip-Bacon-Pecan Cookies (thick)
Enlarge Susan Russo for NPR

Chocolate Chip-Bacon-Pecan Cookies (thick)
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes about 18 thin-and-chewy cookies

5 strips bacon

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup white sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning several times, until browned and done, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking soda and salt.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugars. Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until just blended. Add the dry ingredients; beat until just incorporated and the flour is dissolved. Stir in the chocolate chips, pecans and bacon.

Drop one large tablespoon cookie dough 2 to 3 inches apart (as they will spread) on baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until firm and golden brown around the edges, and still slightly soft in the center. Transfer to a rack and cool for 15 minutes.

Can be stored on countertop for one to two days, then refrigerated in an airtight container.

Variation: If you like your chocolate chip cookies thicker, follow this recipe.

Makes about 18 thick-and-chewy cookies

5 strips bacon

1 cup, plus 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup light brown sugar

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Follow the same steps from the thin version above.

Peanut Butter-Maple Bacon Fudge

This fudge pairs bacon with three of its best friends: chocolate, peanut butter and maple. With the holidays approaching, it also makes an easy, inexpensive and unusual gift.

Peanut Butter-Maple Bacon Fudge
Enlarge Susan Russo for NPR

Peanut Butter-Maple Bacon Fudge
Susan Russo for NPR

Makes 49 squares

12 strips maple-smoked bacon, with 2 strips reserved for garnish

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup peanut butter chips

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon maple extract

Coat an 8-inch-square pan with cooking spray.

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning several times, until browned and done, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop finely. Reserve 2 of the chopped slices for garnish.

Combine all ingredients except bacon in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir continuously until chips and butter are melted, and mixture is thick and smooth. Remove from heat. Stir in bacon.

Pour into prepared pan. Sprinkle the reserved chopped bacon on top and lightly press with your fingertips. Cover with aluminum foil and chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 4 hours, or preferably overnight.

Slice into 7 equal rows to create 49 squares. It's a good idea to use a ruler to ensure equal-sized pieces. Serve at about room temperature.

 
    • Stumble Upon
    • Reddit
    • Digg
  • Comments
 

More Kitchen Window

Podcast + RSS Feeds

Podcast RSS

  • Food
     
  • Holiday Recipes
     
 
 

Kitchen Window commentaries on food and entertaining are published every Wednesday and feature recipes.

Send us your comments, ideas, recipes.

 
 

Comments

Please note that all comments must adhere to the NPR.org discussion rules and terms of use. See also the Community FAQ.

 

NPR reserves the right to read on the air and/or publish on its Web site or in any medium now known or unknown the e-mails and letters that we receive. We may edit them for clarity or brevity and identify authors by name and location. For additional information, please consult our Terms of Use.

 

About Kitchen Window

Kitchen Window commentaries on food and entertaining are published every Wednesday and feature recipes.

Adding Bacon

There are no set rules when it comes to adding bacon to desserts, but here are a few tips:

• Buy lean pork bacon. (Turkey bacon cupcakes? That's just weird).

• Try smoked bacon. Hickory, apple-wood and maple-smoked bacon lend themselves especially well to sweet desserts.

• Keep the flavors simple and create a pleasing contrast of both flavor and texture. The idea is to make the familiar more exciting.

• Make sure the bacon is crispy and dry. No matter how good the flavor, no one wants a gristly bit of bacon in his cake.

• Have fun and be imaginative. Stressing over them defeats the purpose of making (and eating) bacon desserts.

Write To 'Kitchen Window'

Send us your comments, ideas, recipes.

Kitchen Window

Not quite a soup or a stew, a true chowder features good stock, salt, starch -- and chunks.

Chowders Are Winners On Winter Table

Not quite a soup or a stew, a true chowder features good stock, salt, starch -- and chunks.

This baton-shaped Italian cookie should be dense, chunky, dunkable --  and noisy till the end.

Not All Biscotti Are Created Equal

This baton-shaped Italian cookie should be dense, chunky, dunkable -- and noisy till the end.

<em>Smorrebrod </em>reflects Scandinavian sensibility: simple food attractively presented with little waste.

The Art Of The Danish Open-Face Sandwich

Smorrebrod reflects Scandinavian sensibility: simple food attractively presented with little waste.

If plain champagne just doesn't cut it, here's a host of other bubbly drinks to toast with.

Sparkling Ways To Celebrate The Holidays

If plain champagne just doesn't cut it, here's a host of other bubbly drinks to toast with.

Easier-than-you'd-think treats like caramel, toffee, brittle, fudge will please anyone on your list.

Homemade Candy Answers The Holiday Gift Question

Easier-than-you'd-think treats like caramel, toffee, brittle, fudge will please anyone on your list.

The apple slurry lends earthy sweetness to savory dishes in a brine, a vinaigrette and a glaze.

Cider: A Winter Kitchen's Secret Weapon

The apple slurry lends earthy sweetness to savory dishes in a brine, a vinaigrette and a glaze.

Food writer Ramin Ganeshram marries flavors of her West Indian heritage and homey U.S. traditions.<strong></strong>

Christmas Cookies Win A Trip To The Caribbean

Food writer Ramin Ganeshram marries flavors of her West Indian heritage and homey U.S. traditions.

Eating local can mean a limited menu in cold months; food writer Peggy Bourjaily found a compromise.

Practical Locavorism: Bananas In Winter

Eating local can mean a limited menu in cold months; food writer Peggy Bourjaily found a compromise.

more