Thursday, March 26, 2009

Salted Bacon Caramel w/smoked pig candy

Warning: Explicit Pork Language, all vegetarians and non pork eaters please exit now. Trust me, you are not ready for this.

Ask a few chefs to name ONE ingredient they would not want to live without, and I am willing to bet it would be a pork product, more specifically, BACON.  

Bacon.  It deserves it own sentence. Bacon. Bacon. Bacon! 

I kept saying I was going to do a Bacon topped caramel and I have researched the topic extensively. But every recipe I have found has some pretty glaring flaws that will render the bacon (our star) limp and unsavory. 

Most recipes just saute the bacon until it gets crispy, then it's drained and added to the top of the still soft caramel. However, when the caramel sets, the bacon gets soft and becomes chewy. 

The solutions comes from CSR instructor, Chef Marilyn K.  She told me about the "pig candy" she used to make when she was a cook on a ranch.  MMMMmmm, pig candy.  The bacon is liberally coated with brown sugar and baked until the sugar turns to caramel, thus creating a nice barrier allowing our final product stay crunchy. 

Here's the money shot. Notice the caramelized bacon..a.k.a. Pig Candy!

I also added a smoked bacon salt to the top. The product is called, J & D's Bacon Salt. It's vegetarian, low in sodium and get's kosher!



Salted Bacon Caramel w/smoked pig candy

4 slices thick cut bacon
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp. kosher salt (optional)

1 cup heavy cream
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 cup light corn syrup
1/4 cup water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter an 8 x 8 pan, line with buttered parchement

Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper. Liberally coat both sides of bacon with brown sugar and place on parchment and bake for 15-20 minutes. Reserve brown sugar, we will coat the bacon a second time. **Every oven is different, so please keep an eye on this so you do not burn your bacon. It is normal for the sugar to run off and to darken slightly.  

When the bacon begins to crisp, remove sheet pan from oven and top bacon with an additional layer of brown sugar, and bake for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the sugar melts completely.  Remove pan from oven, and transfer bacon to a cooling rack. Once cooked, chop or slice into small pieces, and be sure not to eat it all! Now you have Pig Candy!

Heat butter and cream in a small sauce pan and bring mixture to a boil. Remove from heat and set aside for later use.  

Next, pour your sugar in the middle of a medium pot that has a lid.  Now, pour your water AROUND the outside of your sugar pile (the sugar should look like an island surrounded by water). Next pour your corn syrup ON TOP of the sugar.. DO NOT STIR! DO NOT STIR!
Stirring this mixture will deposit sugar crystals along the sides of pot and will increase the chance of your caramel crystalizing.   Now, place the tight fitting lid on your pot and turn your stove to medium high, and cook until you see steam beginning to escape from the sides of the lid.  Carefully, lift the lid AWAY from you and check to see if you see sugar crystals.  They must be completely dissolved.  If you see ANY crystals, place the lid back on the pot and cook for a few more minutes.

When all the sugar has dissolved, remove the lid and continue to cook until you see the caramel beginning to turn golden brown along the sides of the pan. Once you see some color, CAREFULLY swirl the pan. Continue to cook until the caramel is a medium brown, then CAREFULLY pour in your cream/butter mixture. The mixture will spatter and some of the caramel will harden, this is normal.  Just keep the heat on and continue to stir until all the caramel is dissolved.

Now, continue to cook your caramel until your candy thermometer reads:
5000 ft Elevation: 244-245 degrees F
Below 5000 feet   248-249 degrees F
Above 5000, up to 7000  242-3 degrees F

Once you reach the right temperature, pour your caramel into your prepared 8 X 8 pan.   Do not scrape the pan. The caramel coating the pan has cooked beyond your desired temperature and will be too hard and too chewy. I always scrape this mixture onto a my cutting board and let people pick at it later.

Once you pour your caramel, sprinkle the top with Bacon Salt, and a bit of kosher salt. Next, top with Pig Candy and allow your caramel to cool.  Cut into squares and enjoy.

I realize this is a bit strange, but for some of us this is only the beginning.  I am working on Kettle  Popcorn ice cream! The cream is infused with LFM's very own, Huck's Kettle Corn, then it's strained, sweetened and churned. 

Happy Snow day Colorado!

Chef Deb