Triple threat= bourbon+maple+bacon
I bake. It's what I do to relax and to satisfy any sugary cravings I might have. I also feel less guilty about eating sweets/desserts when I make them myself rather than buy them from a store. 99% of what I make I bring to school the next day to share with my co-workers and students. Food sparks conversation and bonding.
The first time I brought this brittle to work everyone looked at me funny, but all of their eyes popped out of their heads when they tasted this recipe. The sugar and bourbon (which isn't enough to get anyone buzzed) give you a nice little pick-me-up during that midmorning slump.
I'm not a big pork eater, but I think most people will agree that even if you don't like pork, you probably LOVE bacon. There is no substitute for real pork bacon. Regardless of what you make it from, bacon isn't a healthy food---we don't eat it because it's good for us. We eat bacon because it tastes AMAZING. So rather than trying to fool yourself into believing that slab of turkey (or tofu) bacon is just as good as the real thing, why not just eat the real thing? :-D
I've been thinking about making candied bacon or chocolate covered bacon for a while. Every year at the Big E there are vendors selling both and the bacon looks and smells amazing. I've never bought candied or chocolate covered bacon because I'm convinced it won't be as good as it smells. I'm even more afraid of wasting money on what will turn out to be some of the greasiest and mushy bacon treat I've ever had. I could be wrong, but I've been burned by too many maple bacon donuts.
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Step 1: Ingredients
1/4-1/2 cup brown sugar (light or dark, doesn't matter)
6-8 (or more) slices of your favorite bacon (I tried a dry rubbed maple bacon from Whole Foods and the holiday bacon from Trader Joe's---TJ's bacon had much more flavor and the slices were thicker).
**I've seen some recipes for candied bacon include cracked pepper, cheyenne pepper, maple syrup, and brushing the bourbon directly onto the bacon during cooking---kind of like basting a turkey---all seems like more work and higher chance of a smokey kitchen, which living in an apartment, is something I want to avoid.**
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup or 1/4 light corn syrup and 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tbs unsalted butter (I used the Kerrygold)
2 tbs bourbon (I used Jim Beam, there are a couple of maple bourbons out there but not being a bourbon drinker, I don't know the difference and probably couldn't tell the difference in the brittle)
1 tsp baking soda (makes the brittle lighter)
1 tsp maple extract (vanilla works well too, I use maple to enhance the maply-flavor)
1/4-1/2 cup of toasted pecans**
sea salt (for sprinkling)**
Step 2: Candied Bacon
Candied bacon is sooooooooo much easier to make than it sounds. I looked at several recipes to compare before finally settling on what seemed like the easiest method for making it.
First I prepped my baking pan. I used my biggest cookie sheet and lined it with tin foil and parchment paper for easy clean up. Then I put a metal rack on top of the cookie sheet for the grease/melted sugar to fall into.
I took the longest and shallowest pan I had (which was a 9x13 glass pan) and spread brown sugar over the bottom. Then, using tongs (because I hate grease on my fingers) I lined the pan with slices of bacon. After patting each slice into the brown sugar, I flipped them over and repeated.
Once both sides of my bacon were covered with brown sugar, I gently placed them on the wire rack. Once the rack was full I put the cookie sheet into a cold oven and turned the oven on to 350. The oven doesn't need to be preheated. I cooked the bacon for 15 minutes on one side and then turned them over and cooked them for another 10-15 minutes. This may vary depending on the thickness of your bacon.
When your bacon is done, remove it from the oven and transfer the slices to a different wire rack to cool.
Once cool, the bacon will be a bit sticky and a little hard, so you'll likely want to use a pair of kitchen scissors to cut up the bacon into small pieces for the brittle.
To expedite things I did try raising the temperature in the oven to 400, but found it created a smoking in the oven, and thus my apartment, that I really didn't care for and didn't want to deal with airing out.
Step 3: Bacon Brittle Prep
The easiest and possibly most simple way to guarantee great brittle with little-to-no-stress is to have your ingredients pre-measured before you start and to have your pans lined.
I used one of my smaller cookie sheets, I believe it's 9x13, and lined it with tinfoil before placing a piece of parchment on top. You don't need to do the tinfoil, it's just a little extra clean-up help.
I measured out my ingredients, combining some (like the bacon pieces and pecans), to save me time once the sugar water mixture is ready for the final steps. It also takes some pressure off as you want to work quickly when working with boiling sugar.
Step 4: Bacon Brittle Part 1
For this part you need a pot. My first batch (first video) I used a larger pot than I needed because working with boiling sugar makes me a little nervous. For my second batch I used a smaller pot and things went much quicker.
***UPDATED 12/24/14*** If you are using a candy thermometer (and it's usually easier if you do), put your thermometer into the pot once it starts to boil. I had been putting the thermometer in before the pot was hot and I think that screwed up some of my batches as the reading was likely off.
With your pot on the stove, turn your burner onto medium heat and begin adding your water, sugar, and corn syrup (or corn & maple syrup mixture). Stir constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the pot starts to boil. I suggest using a wooden spoon for the entire process, as with a plastic one you risk melting the spoon.
The first video was originally about 5 minutes long, with a little editing and speeding up the first 2 minutes I was able to get it down to under 3.
Step 5: Bacon Brittle Part 2
Once your pot is boiling you get to stand there and wait while the temperature on your thermometer works its way to 300. If you're using a smaller pot it will boil faster than in a larger one. You also might run into more trouble getting an accurate thermometer reading with a big pot.
Seriously, you have to stand there. It will feel like you are waiting forever but if you walk away you run the risk of over-cooking your brittle. From what I've noticed, it takes forever to get to 250, but once the thermometer hits 250 it shoots to 300 very fast.
Step 6: Bacon Brittle Part 3
With this last step you want to work quickly.
Once you've hit the magic number on your candy thermometer, remove it and the boiling sugar from the heat.
Quickly add your butter, baking soda, and then bourbon and maple extract. Stirring together quickly so the butter melts.
As soon as the brittle starts to "foam" add your bacon and pecans, again mix in and stir quickly.
Step 7: Last Step...
Once everything is mixed together, pour it out onto your pre-lined baking sheet and work quickly to spread it around. You want to spread the brittle thin. Sometimes a second pair of hands helps with this step.
The final thing you can do (you don't have to) is sprinkle to top of your brittle with sea salt.
Step 8: You've Got Brittle!
Let your brittle cool and when it's ready, you can either crack it into pieces by hand or use some sort of kitchen tool to break it up.
The darker brittle is a corn syrup/maple syrup mix. I used grade A pure Vermont Maple Syrup, because I was raised in Vermont :-D
Store in an air tight container. Should keep for up to a week, maybe longer if kept in the fridge. Put in a Mason jar or other type of container to make a great gift/stocking stuffer.
ArizonaSRMC made it!