Tag Archives: dessert

Hats off to Derby Day

May 1st is celebrated in many ways throughout the US: May Day, Maypoles, dancing, ding-dong-ditch with bouquets of flowers, Beltane bonfires and this year the Kentucky Derby, which is always held on the first Saturday of May and it just happened to be on May Day this year. Derby Day is always a favorite event of mine.

My dear friend G___ has graciously opened her home to celebrate the auspicious occasion of the Run for the Roses for many years now, and she always puts on a lavish Southern feast. Her stylish and charming home is filled with great friends clutching monstrous tumblers of mint juleps or flutes of Champagne, her tables and sideboards overflowing with comestibles of every description. Hats are encouraged, although this year I was without, alas. There were a few fine specimens scattered here and there, although nowhere near the spectacle displayed on television.

The highlight of the party, besides G___’s charming conversation and hospitality, is the race itself.  Upon crossing the threshold, G___’s charming beau or her butler-for-the-day presses upon you to blindly select a slip of paper from a porcelain basket with a name of one of the 25 gorgeous beasts running the race that day.

It is incredible how the breeders and owners of the thoroughbred horses can come up with creative and unique names year after year after year. The Kentucky Derby has been run for 135 years and in Kentucky it is *the* social and sporting event of the year. Vast sums of money are spent on the horses and their training, the parties, the dresses, the amazing hats and the wagers on the race. We watched in amazement this year at a man with possibly the world’s worst toupee wagered $100,000 in *cash*, contained in a gleaming golden attache, on a horse called Super Saver. At 18:1 it was a pretty gutsy bet.

No betting is allowed at the party though, however if you selected the winning horse your prize is a bottle of Champagne, so the rooting for *your* horse is loud and impassioned, complete with genteel ribbing along the lines of “my horse looks peppier than your horse”, etc. We gather around the televisions, pretend to know the words to “My Old Kentucky Home” and sing it lustily, wrong words and all, and gasp with amazement and cheer for the longest two minutes of the year.

This year I pulled HomeBoyKris out of the basket, number 19, who placed somewhere around the bottom, sad to say… But Super Saver won! The gentleman with the immense bet did actually win and he was almost levitating with glee. Nothing compares though with the beaming face of Calvin Borel, the winning jockey, and the obvious affection he has for Super Saver as he alternatively stroked the horse’s mane and then pumped his fists in the air in victory.

Before the race started, we gathered around the bar in the kitchen for our choice of libation, and I always prefer a tall mint julep. The butler studiously crushed bag after bag of ice and packed them into highball glasses which were stored in the freezer until needed. The frosty glasses were filled with a dollop of simple syrup then a steady trickle of rich Maker’s Mark bourbon slid between the shards of ice. A large spring of mint leaves were tucked between the ice and the side of the glass and muddled gently. One sips this concoction, slowly, while discussing the merits of your horse, the dichotomy of rain in Kentucky and sunshine in San Francisco, and what delectable dish to start with from the buffet.

Finally, a mint julep!

I arrived a tad early and helped out in the kitchen by frying boneless chicken thighs soaked in buttermilk overnight, dusted with flour and coated with seasoned panko. Crispy, succulent and perfect, we all had to sample a bit of them once they cooled a bit, followed by tidbits of Fire and Ice Pineapple

Meanwhile, G___ had been baking and cooking up a storm and completely outdid herself. She baked tiny corn muffins, made a tangy broccoli and cabbage slaw, a traditional pasta salad with tiny crunchy vegetables, roasted fat asparagus spears with reduced syrupy balsamic vinegar, perfect baked beans, a zippy shrimp étouffée, baked balls of spinach and cheese, and pimento cheese – “the pate of the South” – my personal favorite. There were masses of gorgeous cheeses, a whole spiral glazed ham and tiny rolls to make mini sandwiches, garlic soaked carrots, fat green grapes, and deviled eggs. Can you believe the spread of goodies? It was amazing, and everything was jaw-droppingly delicious.

derby collage 1
(clockwise from top: crunchy fried chicken and a peek at the asparagus; shrimp, chicken and andoille étouffée; the voluptuous ham and rolls; a happy guest’s plate)

And then there were the desserts. The guests were encouraged to bring a dessert to accompany the cut crystal pitchers of G___’s homemade pink lemonade, and they outdid themselves too. Homemade cookies, Dottie’s incredible biscotti, homemade peach and blackberry cobbler, Italian cookies, a blueberry cream cheese crumble from Sweet Things, a fresh fruit topped cheesecake from Tart to Tart, and the best chocolate cake in San Francisco – the devils food ganache cake from Tartine. It was like a bake sale from Heaven.

Derby collage 2
(blueberry cheese crumble cake, Dottie’s biscotti and lemonade, Tartine’s to die for chocolate cake)

After the race we refreshed our drinks, nibbled on desserts and chatted. Invariably I end up in the kitchen with masses of friends, enjoying the breeze from the open windows punctuated by the pop of Champagne corks flying up roof-high from the yard below. It was wonderful to catch up with friends, long-time buddies and new acquaintances, and catch up on the happenings from our last meeting, a few lively discussions of politics and debate on the sad legislature passed in Arizona this week.

It was a beautiful spring day and a great day for a party. Belly methodically packed and a heart full of friendship, I said adieu to my hostess and friends, and sadly relinquished my tenuous grasp on my own southern heritage, and retired for the evening dreaming of roses.

Mint Julep

Happily, one does not have to limit the consumption of a mint julep for the Kentucky Derby. It is a great cocktail for any spring or summer afternoon or evening. Or anytime fresh mint is available! But it is best enjoyed when watching the condensation form on the outside of a tall glass is considered a pleasurable thing. In other words, this might not be the ideal cocktail when the fog is rolling over the City.

A Perfect Mint Julep

Crushed ice
A hefty jigger of bourbon (Maker’s Mark) or 2 1/2 oz
Simple syrup
Mint leaves
“fuzzy water” (sparkling water)

Simple syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

In a sauce pan pour in the water, then the sugar, and heat the mixture until the sugar is completely dissolved. Cool and store in a jar or bottle in the refrigerator. Besides being an essential for cocktails, it is handy to sweeten iced tea, should your southern roots demand this kind of thing.

For the julep, pack a tall highball glass with crushed ice. Add a tablespoon of simple syrup and then a full jigger of bourbon. With your fingers, gently crush a large sprig of mint leaves and push them into the glass and muddle gently. Add a few tablespoons of fuzzy water if desired.

Sip slowly. Beware of rapid refills.

As Dorothy Parker said:

“I wish I could drink like a lad.
I can take one or two at the most.
Three and I’m under the table.
Four and I’m under the host”

Cheers!

Not Measuring Up

Cooking is an art; baking is a science.

Coming from parents who were/are scientists, my early cooking tutelage was often based upon the science behind the cuisine.  Why flour thickens sauces, how sugar works and melts, why meat browns, why egg whites whip up.

When one is baking, the science must be exact.  If you do not accurately measure or weigh your ingredients, beat things to the correct consistency or bake things to the right temperature your finished dessert will not turn out the way the recipe intends. The type of ingredient used in a recipe also matters.  If you use skim milk in lieu of whole milk, for example, the resulting dessert will not be as creamy or thicken properly.

Lately, my mom and I have been plagued with a series of desserts that did not come out the way we had planned.  The vanilla panna cotta was thin and watery and on two occasions the family favorite, fluffy tapioca pudding, did not set up.  We were perplexed.  We tried the recipes again, ensure we were using whole milk and large eggs, not the usual gut-busting jumbo eggs available here in the country, much larger than citified jumbo eggs.  Again, the tapioca was more like a creme Anglaise or tapioca soup.  It was so disappointing.

Today, while I was baking orange blossom pecan bars with marmalade, mOm had a brilliant thought.  She pulled out the measuring spoons and remarked, “I wonder if these new (rectangular) measuring spoons measure out the same as our old redoubtable measuring spoons?”

Immediately, we dropped everything and pulled out the kitchen scale, the sugar jar and all the measuring spoons we could find in the kitchen drawers.

We compared the Norpro rectangular measuring spoons, which we used for our ill-fated tapioca preparations earlier in the week, and a set by Tupperware from the ’70’s, and the set we call the “old redoubtable” that have been in the family since the ’50’s, aluminum and oxidized to a powdery finish after being washed in the dishwasher, a wedding gift to mOm from Aunt Marg.

The Norpro measuring spoons were purchased recently at a high-end cook shop and are also found everywhere in catalogs.

Measure for Measure

According to a standard conversion chart, one tablespoon is equivalent to 14.235 grams.    Our measuring spoons resulted in the following for 1 tablespoon of sugar, scooped and leveled:

  • Norpro rectangular:                       11 grams
  • Old-fashioned aluminum:           14 grams
  • Tupperware plastic:                       16 grams

Well!

What a shocker!

We rarely use the Tupperware spoons because they are old and ucky.  We always had, in the past, used the vintage aluminum measuring spoons but they are getting on in years and don’t fit into small jars and boxes with the ease of the Norpro’s rectangular measuring spoons.  But no longer!

“If they aren’t accurate, they aren’t useful.” mOm says.  Spoken like a true scientist.

A difference of 3 grams too few with the Norpro or 2 grams too many with the Tupperware can make a huge difference in the result of your finished dish.

In the case of our soupy tapioca pudding, the recipe calls for 6 T of tapioca, and by using the faulty Norpro measuring spoon the recipe was short 18 grams of tapioca, over a full tablespoon!  No wonder the darn thing did not set up and was like soup.

Aaargh….

Caveat emptor.

If you have a set of these Norpro rectangular measuring spoons, please do weigh out a tablespoon of sugar and let me know what you come up with.

mOm is going to use the inaccurate Norpro set just to retrieve ingredients from tight jars and continue on with using our old redoubtable.

San Francisco 1st International Chocolate Salon

<<I wrote this last February but I thought you might enjoy hearing all about it.  It’s coming back next month, so perhaps this will whet your appetite!>>

I have to say this was one fun day!

The first International Chocolate Salon in San Francisco was at beautiful Fort Mason (now part of the Golden Gate National Park and Recreation area). It’s on the edge of the bay with three old army piers and several barrack like buildings which are now a center for artists, artist collectives, museums and Greens vegetarian restaurant – fun place! Despite the misting fog it was gorgeous on the bay. I liked that they called this event the “Chocolate Stimulus Plan”.

Chocolate Salon

My friend and I entered this massive hall filled with tables of local chocolatiers and related vendors, and a zillion chocoholics- what a mob scene!

Mobs of People

For the next several hours we methodically sampled all the delicious wares and made quite a few purchases – here is our haul:

The Haul

The big bags are Choffy, ground cocoa nibs that you brew like coffee. You get all the benefits of the wonderful chocolate flavor and antioxidants, this batch is from the Ivory Coast.   I’m having a pot now and it’s really delicious and better for you than coffee.

Some of my favorite vendors there:
Van Gough chocolate vodka, Chaya Brasserie’s bar manager Eric was making some wonderful chocolate martinis!

Chris Michael from Newport Beach came up to sell his amazing bars, I picked up his Sizzling Bacon Bar, with bacon, fair trade single origin Venuzuelan milk chocolate and popping candy for a sizzling sensation, man this is good!

Of course Ghirardelli was there with their new (salmonella free) peanut butter filled chocolate squares.

Bill of William Dean chocolates was there describing in tantalizing detail his creative process behind making unique flavor combinations for his truffles. They are like exquisite jewels – lemongrass, Mexican mango (with habanero), rosemary and bitter chocolate, rosewater and semi sweet ganache. wow.

Jim of Sterling Confections created a huge triangular bar of truffle in delicious layers and handpaints the outside. You thinly slice the bar at your dinner table or let the guests do it themselves, brilliant concept, gorgeous and so amazingly delicious! My favorite was the pineapple ginger macadamia nut bar, although the Rocky Road was a close second.

Here’s Jim:

Jim

I also met a 6′ Oompa Loompa, actually he’s the self-proclaimed King Oompa Loompa from Sacred Chocolates, in Marin of course. Despite being a complete ham he did not offer a bacon/chocolate combination (yet).

King Oompa Loompa

The gals from Foodzie, an online gourmet shop headquartered in SF, were there making custom S’mores with chocolate covered super thin graham crackers and homemade marshmellows. I plan to order some soon. Check out her wee blow torch! I use a plumbers torch myself at home and her “culinary” one looks like a darling toy. I’m looking forward to checking out their website to see what other goodies they offer.

Foodzie Gals

Socola Chocolatier hit the home run for me with their bittersweet salted caramel truffles (Burnt Baby Burnt) and Guinness ganache truffles. They ran out of their guava truffles (Give it to Me Guava) so I plan to seek them out sometime soon.

Another interesting concept was chocolate slabs created specifically for pairing with wine. Brix has 40%, 60% and 70% cacao bars blended to pair with wines and as they are from Rutherford you know they are good at their job! The chocolate is in a huge block that you break up with a parmesan cheese knife or the like.  We grabbed some wine from the new SF tasting room Winery Collective and did the recommended pairings, wow.

By this time my eyeballs were beginning to do the jig and we were flagging from too much sugar and chocolate, so we began to explore the art exhibits and other vendors. We ran across a beauty products booth, Sweet Beauty, based in Seattle.  They use organic chocolate in their spa treatment products, dark chocolate body scrub with demerara sugar anyone? I bought a pot of their “pot de creme” cocoa butter cream, it completely took away the winter crepeness on my hands. They weren’t selling their baby balm but the gals there claim it is the best thing for the face during winter and their skin was gorgeous. It has a lighter scent and, of course, good for babies!

Another fun surprise there was my old friend Chris Scott, an amazing makeup designer who used to work for Chanel. He did my makeup for the Opera’s opening nights each year and has written a wonderful book about how to buy makeup from department & drug stores, and has a tv show and website now! He glammed me up good right there on the spot, I forgot how talented he is with mascara and eyeliner!

So with gorgeous eyes and chocolate in the corners of my mouth (quickly remedied) we left the festival and headed for nearby Chestnut Street for some protein and a bloody Mary at the Squat and Gobble cafe, then home for a long nap. I swear I had a chocolate hangover! I usually don’t eat a lot of sweets but am becoming quite a chocolate addict.

So that was my day of fun~ this year it is on March 20, 2010.  Perhaps I’ll go! Anyone else up for it?

Comforting Myself with Citrus

a bowl of love

Sundays are supposed to be cozy, comfort-filled days with family rituals and a wonderful meal with everyone at the table.

As a kid, I remember occasionally going over to my grandparents for dinner. Grandpa was a jolly fellow with a huge sweet-tooth and Granny was a bit fearsome, but under that facade she was warm, loving and a whiz bang in the kitchen. She was an amazing fiber artist too, knitting, crochet, embroidery, crewel and who knows what else. I have fond albeit vague memories of sitting at her feet holding skeins of yarn away from her mischievous Burmese kitty and Granny wound yarn and taught me these gentle arts. I wish I had the pleasure of learning how to cook with her, that was something she and my mUm did together. They would laugh and chat and finish each others sentences, just like mUm and me in the kitchen fast-forwarded four decades later. mUm was lucky to have such a great relationship with her mother-in-law, and I feel lucky to have a few treasured family recipes from Granny that I can recreate in my own kitchen.

Granny made many amazing and delicious desserts that are my favorites, recipes she made to keep Grandpa and his sweet-tooth happy.

During this time of year the markets and neighbors trees are exploding with citrus of all types. Well, not in my neighborhood of course, but many of my friends neighborhoods. The largess sometimes lands in my lap, and I joyously accept all contributions, especially Meyer lemons. I have also been long on the hunt for yuzu, a Japanese citrus kind of a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit. They aren’t pretty fruit, or at least not the yuzu I found at my local Japanese market. The fruit are the size of clementines but yellower with pebbly, deeply pored, extremely aromatic rinds.

I wasn’t sure what to do with them, but I have been missing my family a great deal this week and feeling a bit indigo in mood, so I pulled out my ancient box of recipe cards and found Granny’s recipe for lemon cake pudding. I supplemented the yuzu with some Meyer lemons from a friend’s tree. What better way to comfort myself on a solitary Sunday with a wonderful dessert and one that was my childhood favorites.

It seems very fitting that the bowl I use to bake this pudding was one of Granny’s; the medium size of the nested Corningware mixing bowls. This pudding is easy to put together and is baked in a buttered bowl set into a larger pan of hot water. The finished pudding has a tender lemon cake atop a lovely, thick, warm lake of lemony pudding. I am staring at the oven right now willing it to bake faster!

First I zested the yuzu and really enjoyed the way my whole apartment was filled with the flowering scent of citrus. And my hands smell divine too. I also started the tea kettle because all the citrus really put me in the mood for a cup of green tea with citrus, a gift from a lovely lady at the NASFT Fancy Food Show.

Zesting the yuzu and lemon

After zesting the yuzu, I cut it open and was surprised to see how little pulp and the abundance of seeds. I juiced my four fruits anyway, which yielded a scant tablespoon of  juice. Fortunately I had a half of a Meyer lemon to fulfill the 1/4 cup of juice needed for the pudding.

Juicing the yuzu
(super seedy fruit)

I measured out the milk into the measuring cup with the zest, and measured out the flour, sugar and salt into a little sieve set over a small bowl.

Measuring out the dry stuff

Then, I separated the eggs and beat up the yolks to an appropriate lemon yellow color. They got mixed into the milk along with the lemon juice. The flour mixture was added next and this thin batter was mixed until smooth.

egg yolk collage
(yolks, before and after)

New Message

Quickly, I beat up the egg whites, and then poured in the batter, and with a few folds with a spatula the batter was ready for its buttered bowl.

white collagefolding in the batter and the egg whites
(it doesn’t look very nice at this point, but a few quick folds with the spatula and
the batter becomes nice and smooth – but barely mixed)

The bowl was sitting in an ancient metal roasting pan, a Foley pan from my other grandmother actually. I poured super hot water from my tap into the metal pan and popped the whole assembly into the oven.

Finished batter in a buttered bowl, set in a bain marie

Finished Yuzu Lemon Cake PuddingDetail of Granny's Bowl
(Granny’s bowl, does anyone else have this set?)

a bowl of love

A word about these pictures, this is a homey, homely dessert. It does not photograph well, but it tastes fantastic!

I dug in after it cooled off a bit.  I could really taste the yuzu in this, despite the juice being primarily lemon.  Just so homey and wonderful.  I miss my Granny, but making her recipes help me miss her less.  And I can’t wait to call my mUm and sister and tell them what I’ve baked tonight!  Envy will ensue, I guarantee. heh heh…

Lemon Cake Pudding

My mUm’s comments:

If you are looking for some different way to use lemons – here is the fabulous recipe of Granny’s:

¼ c. sifted flour
1 c. Sugar
¼ tsp. salt

1 ½ or 2 T grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
¼ c. lemon Juice (exact)
2 Egg yolks (well beaten)
1 c. milk

2 egg whites (beat until stiff, not dry)

Sift flour before measuring. Mix all of the dry ingredients in a medium bowl. Beat egg yolks, with a whisk, until lemon yellow. Whisk in milk,
lemon zest and lemon juice and when well blended. Mix the milk, etc. into flour and mix until well blended. Fold in the beaten egg whites just until blended. Pour into buttered heat-proof bowl. Place bowl in pan of hot water in 350 F oven. Bake for ~30 minutes. Cake will rise to top of bowl with a brown top and will draw away from the sides of the bowl, slightly.

Cool. Can be served in shallow bowls with the extra “sauce” over the top.  Does not have to be cold.  A word about the name – its really more of a pudding than a cake. Very, very light.

——–

Note: I often leave the pan of hot water (or bain marie) in the oven overnight to let it cool because it can be a bit tricky to pick up a sloshing, steaming pan of water and transport it in my tiny kitchen, ever mindful of the cat who stealthily flops behind my feet at every opportunity.  Also, I love my silicon hot pads because when I use fabric ones to lift the bowl out of the hot water I inevitably dip them in the hot water and that’s messy.  Plus wet hot pads do not protect your hands.  A bonus is that the silicon pads come in such citrusy colors!

But tonight I braved maneuvering the bain marie out of there because I wanted to roast off a butternut squash while the oven was hot (an energy-economy measure to bake multiple things while the oven is on).  I split it in half, put it on a foiled tray, tossed some butter into the cavity and a sprinkle of Turkish barbecue spice, and a final drizzle of maple syrup.  So my comfort dinner tonight is dessert first, followed by squash. And wine…. Pure bliss…

Hope you have a lovely cozy Sunday night too.

Joy of Bacon

Bacon, the Gateway Meat… The Glorious Pig… My favorite meat!!!

I confess it, it’s true. I love bacon. I love it such that I follow all kinds of bacony themed people on Twitter, including the bacon Jesus! A sample tweet, “Seven days from now it will rain bacon for forty days and forty nights, and I will feed every living creature I have made with bacon”, so hilarious.

However it happened, and I am by no means unique, I am a baconista. I truly believe that any dish can be enhanced with the addition of bacon. Some people say that this is a trend but I don’t believe it. I have always felt this way, just ask my mom! Bacon has a tendency to disappear around me, so much so that during my littlehood mom used to ration the bacon. If I was able to be served 2 pieces of bacon at a meal I counted myself lucky. Now that I am an adult I am able to serve myself as much bacon as I want. And I want! I take great pleasure in using bacon in unlikely places, like my BLT pizza. But that’s a story for another day.

Today, I was introduced to my newest favorite snack, bacon popcorn from the Chop Bar. I can’t begin to tell you how amazingly bacony it is, with a dash of Parmesan.

Bacon popcorn! i'm in heaven...(I am in love with their chef in a bad way. Bad!!)

A few years ago dear A___ read to me a passage from the Sweet Potato Queen’s book about pig candy, how a fan handed the SPQ a slightly greasy bag after a speech and whispered, “Don’t open this until you are alone in your room.” She did and found a dozen or so strips of sticky, dark, luscious porkiness enrobed in candied caramel, and crunched it down, furtively, propped up in bed.

Sitting there in A__’s car in the pool of light from a streetlamp, traffic signal forgotten, we were entranced and knew we had to try pig candy. And soon.

Later, giggling in the kitchen, we created a pound of heaven: thickly sliced bacon, heavily coated in brown sugar, baked until candied and crisp. And then the giggling stopped and so did all discernible sound other than crunching and soft moans. The pound of pig candy was consumed in short order, like ravenous hyenas over a Springbok. We were hooked. The next time we made it, we cooked up three pounds of bacon. Dare I say between us and several starving teenage girls the pig candy was all gone in minutes. And we ate it with mashed potatoes too. What is that, a triple sin?? It was at this point that we looked at each other and said, “We can never do this again”, pinky-sweared and immediately purchased massive piles of celery as our sole sustenance for the next week or two. Okay, there was a little wine in there too, shush now.

A year later, we made it again, and consumed the pig candy with such joy and abandon that we decided to lift the outright (and ineffective) ban and to instead limit ourselves to making the ritual of pig candy an annual event. We pretty well have stuck to it, until I started researching bacon recipes and discovered David Lebovitz’s maple ice cream with candied bacon, Seattle Tall Poppy’s toffee with candied bacon (one of the funniest posts ever written!) and bacon donuts at my own local Dynamo donuts. Somewhere down the line I read of bacon infused booze and, with the sage advice of Music City Missy and Seattle Tall Poppy, infused Black Forest bacon with Sky Vodka and with Maker’s Mark.

Somehow, and I really don’t know why (smirk), I developed a bacon reputation! Was it the bacon Manhattans? The Bloody Bacon Mary’s? The mounds of lacquered pig candy that I brought to parties? My constant quest for great bacon recipes?


(yes, guilty, I did knit a piece of bacon too using a piece of bacon from the meat counter at Treats as a model. Then I cooked it and ate it.)

Given all if this, I am so fortunate to have friends that recognize my bacon obsession and gift me accordingly. For a few years my dear pal S___ has gifted me with bacon for my birthday, and happyhappyjoyjoy this year was no exception. This year’s amazing batch of artisanal bacon is from Father’s in Kentucky, did I say amazing already?

She also suggested some amazing bacony ideas, one of which I just had to instantly start playing with:

Chocolate Chip Bacon Cookies.

Yes, you read that right. And they are amazing. The gooey melted chocolate chunks, the chewy sweet savory bacon pieces, the nutty whole wheat buttery dough, they are heaven on a plate. And completely dangerous. I happily corrupted quite a few of my friends with these bad boys, including one friend who made me promise to freeze some for her until we got together next.

These cookies are so good I completely forgot to photograph them when they got out of the oven. I just pried off a few from the parchment paper, and with chocolate chunks dripping down my chin and forearms, slowly and placidly I crunched them into oblivion.

Of course some people out there think the concept of bacon with desserty things or booze, is unappetizing. These cookies just might change their minds. I highly recommend you give this recipe a whirl and help enlighten the rest of the world to the joys of bacon.

REC: Chocolate Chip Candied Bacon Cookies

(This recipe also gives you my exquisite procedure for pig candy! Don’t go crazy!)

1 # thick-cut bacon, preferably black forest cured bacon
2 c dark brown sugar, divided
1 1/2 c white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur)
1/2 c AP flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 stick or 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened (best to leave out overnight)
1/2 c shortening (try to use trans-fat shortening, it lessens the guilt)
1/2 c granulated sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 T vinegar (I like unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar that I get in bulk at Rainbow)
2 pkgs Scharffen Berger bittersweet chocolate chunks (2 cups total)

Pig Candy

In a large deep skillet arrange the bacon in a single layer if possible, but technically if they overlap or do not all fit don’t worry. Add 1 c dark brown sugar and turn pan to medium heat. Fry bacon until cooked and thickly coated with caramelized sugar. Using a long handled fork, frequently turn over bacon strips and move them about the pan with care. The skillet will soon be filled with a seething mass of sugar and fat, and will slowly become quite dark brown and caramelized. By the time the fat in the bacon has been rendered out adequately and nears the chewy/crisp stage, the sugar will achieve that perfect lacquered mahogany brown hue indicating caramelization. Near the end of the pig candy’s cooking time it is important to turn the strips frequently.

Remove the pig candy from skillet onto a piece of foil or parchment paper and allow to cool. It will harden and crisp as it cools. Immediately pour off the boiling bacon fat and sugar from the cooking pan into a compost friendly container (an old milk cardboard carton is perfect) then fill pan with hot water and return to the stove to melt any remaining sugar for ease of cleaning. I use a Pyrex cup and sometimes nibble on the cooled bacon candy after the fat has cooled.

Picnik collage - Pig candy (clockwise: bacon and brown sugar in the pan; after 10 minutes; the dark candied bacon is done; cooled bacon, ready to chop)

Drain off the pan
(you can put this hot sugary fatty mass into a cup like this and pour off the fat, keeping the blob of sugar in the cup with a fork or spatula. Then, spread the sugar out on a piece of parchment paper thinly, stretching with your fingers when it is cool enough, for delicious bacon sugar candy. Just saying…)

When cool, chop into pieces, and try not to eat more than a slice or two.
Temptation: Fail
(hey, paws off!)

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

For the dough, mix together the flours, baking soda and salt, mix well.

In the mixer, cream butter and shortening until light, then slowly add 1 cup of brown sugar and the white sugar and beat well. With mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla and vinegar. Add the flour mixture slowly and mix just until combined. Remove the mixing bowl and, by hand with a silicon spatula, fold in the pig candy and the chocolate chunks. It is best to chill the dough a bit at this point but generally I don’t usually bother.

Picnik collage - cookie dough
Finished dough

Drop dough using a tablespoon cookie scoop onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Place into the oven and bake until the cookies are golden, about 12 to 14 minutes. Remove and cool cookies on the pan for 2 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.
Ready to bake
Behold. Chocolate chunk candied bacon cookies!

That’s it, aren’t they gorgeous?

I really need to make another batch soon. I hope you try them sometime too.

Now, a note about hot melted sugar. Melted sugar can cause severe burns,which mean common sense and basic precautions must be taken when cooking. Wear shoes that cover your entire foot, long pants and an apron. If you are concerned or a complete klutz, please fill a medium bowl with cold water and a tray of ice cubes. If you get any sugar on you, immediately dip the body part in the ice water and keep it there for at least 10 minutes. I am just careful and, knock on wood, haven’t burned myself on sugar. If you are really worried about it, you can bake the bacon slices in a tray in the oven with brown sugar mounded on top of each slice, which is how every other recipe I have ever seen for sugared bacon recommends. I really prefer my method, obviously, and think that it makes the best Pig Candy. So you have options!

Wordless Wednesday…

….. because words don’t do Bi Rite ice cream sundaes justice.