Sunday, August 23, 2009

Candied Bacon

By now, you've undoubtedly noticed my affinity not only for ice cream, but my enormous crush on David Lebovitz. I often tell people that I could be a vegetarian, except that I love bacon too much. (In truth, I'm not anything close to a vegetarian, except that I can go days without eating meat and not really notice.) Bacon, however, is a serious food-love, second only to ice cream. I'm sure you can see where this is going. Bacon in desserts is very trendy right now: bacon cupcakes, bacon donuts, bacon chocolate. And David has a recipe for candied bacon ice cream. I've been wanting to try it for months, but last night, I finally did it.

Now, because I can't leave any recipe well enough alone, I made a number of changes. You should check out David's original recipe before making any decisions.

For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon
about 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
maple syrup (my addition)

Now, I halved the recipe for the ice cream. Except I didn't halve the bacon. I figured I'd want to nibble on the extra. I was actually concerned that if I didn't make extra, I'd eat it all and leave none for the ice cream. It was a good decision, as you'll see at the end of the post.

My ice cream, perhaps due to the changes I made, tastes like a great breakfast of french toast and bacon. This is probably due more to the fact that the french toast I make is very much custard based, and I use vanilla, Navan, maple and cinnamon when I make it. I don't know that everyone would feel this way--it's more that it tastes like my french toast than french toast in general, I think.

For the ice cream custard:
1 tablespoon butter plus salt if not salted butter
1/3 cup (packed) brown sugar
squeeze of maple syrup (my addition)
1 cup milk
3/4 cup cream
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon Navan (my addition, David recommends rum or whiskey)
a couple drops of vanilla bean paste
a tiny pinch of cinnamon

To candy the bacon, turn the oven to 375 and lay the strips of bacon in a baking dish, and top with brown sugar. Drizzle with maple syrup to taste. Bake for 12-16 minutes, occasionally flipping the bacon strips over and dragging them through the syrupy liquid. Continue to bake until dark and done-looking. Remove from oven, and lay on a sheet of aluminum foil sprayed with non-stick spray. (At this point, I stuck the strips in the freezer to cool faster). Once cool, chop into small pieces. You want them fairly small, or else they really get stuck in the teeth.

To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar, maple syrup to taste, and the milk. Stir until brown sugar is dissolved, and mixture is not quite boiling. Pour the cream into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.

In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually temper them with the brown sugar mixture, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.

Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Add liquor, vanilla and cinnamon, if using.

Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.

I did have plenty of left over candied bacon, and decided to make some chocolates with it. By this time, it was getting late, so I was rather lazy. I didn't temper the chocolate, so you'll notice it's not shiny. I also didn't use any molds. I simply melted a combination of semisweet and milk chocolates in a double boiled, and stirred in about 1 1/2 strips of diced candied bacon. I then spread the bacon-chocolate mixture on waxed paper in two distinct portions. I sprinkled the first with the remaining bacon and a bit of fleur de sel. I topped the other portion with finely chopped smoked almonds. Once cooled, I broke it into pieces. I actually prefer the one topped with smoked almonds--the smokiness of the almonds brings out the smokiness of the bacon in a fabulous way.

I have to admit, I will probably make more candied bacon. It's delicious, and I'm already thinking of other ways to use it...

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day

August 8th is known as "Leave Zucchini on Your Neighbor's Porch Day." The entire month of August, however, is an exercise in creativity when it comes to zucchini--baked, fried, grilled, turned into muffins and bread--as this crop starts to pop up everywhere. Earlier in the summer, in my eagerness, I actually bought myself zucchini from a farmer's market. However, at this point, there is no reason to pay for the vegetable. In spite of my utter lack of green thumb, pretty much every person I know is growing zucchini, and leaving it in the most unusual of places: back porches, on top of the communal microwave at work, in boxes outside empty classrooms at the university where I work.

My mom had some pretty spectacular zucchini bread the last time I saw her, and when I asked her for the recipe, I promptly got a scanned copy directly from the old Lazarus cookbook. I even followed the recipe for the most part, except I had three cups of zucchini, rather than 2 1/2. I made one loaf of bread, and 12 muffins. The muffins were great right out of the oven, but became sticky after a day or two. As an aside, mom doesn't peel her zucchini, and it gives the bread pleasant green specks. For some reason I peeled mine, but it's definitely not necessary.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

All American Apple...Dumpling

I've been in and out a lot lately, but haven't been an active blogger, have I? I have good excuses: for one, I haven't been baking much. I've been setting personal records for cooking dinner multiple nights a week, though. Between the CSA and Carolyn's dad's garden, I've had plenty of fresh veggies to play with every week. Since I hate letting things go to waste, I've been cooking more often than not, instead of going out to dinner. Another good excuse, for July at least, is that I was on vacation for ten days, and packing for vacation takes a lot of effort.

In any case, I'm back. This was my third night making dinner this week (out of three nights!), and I had been thinking about making a dessert for us in addition to my diligent dinner duties. When we picked up today's CSA box, it included a variety of firm, sweet yellow apples I was informed were good for baking. Apple dumplings are a summer favorite, reminding me of the days of riverfront festivals in Cuyahoga Falls, wandering by the river during late weekend hours with my best friends. Irish Fest? Italian Fest? Rockin' at the River? Have an apple dumpling.

My apple dumping recipe is a very loose adaptation from the old standby:

I make my own pie crust, core and peel the apples, and stuff them with a mixture of white and brown sugar, cinnamon and top with a pat of batter before wrapping them in the pie crust.

For the sauce, I boil a combination of about a cup of water, 1/2 cup sugar, a blob of honey, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and clove. I reduce it to a syrup, pour it over the crust-covered apples, and bake for 45 minutes to an hour. I topped tonight's with hearts instead of stars, but I didn't get around to pictures. These are actually from last year:

Although most people insist one needs to measure precisely for baking, that's not really my method. Some things, like pie crust, I know by look and feel, more than using measuring cups. When it comes to the syrup in this recipe, I just keep tasting and adjusting until it seems right, and I'd encourage you to do the same!