Sunday, May 27, 2012

Seemingly Incompatible: Bacon Meets Chocolate

And so, if we can hang on, it will be in the twenty-fifties that the manners and meanings of the Obama era will be truly revealed: only then will we know our own essence. A small, attentive child, in a stroller on some Brooklyn playground or Minneapolis street, is already recording the stray images and sounds of this era: Michelle's upper arms, the baritone crooning sound of NPR, people sipping lattes (which a later decade will know as poison) at 10 A.M.--manners as strange and beautiful as smoking in restaurants and drinking Scotch at 3 P.M. seems to us. 
-Adam Gopnik ("The Forty-Year Itch")

I can no longer remember whether it was before or after baking the Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies that I stumbled upon Gopnik's piece about Mad Men and the forty-year itch in Talk of the Town, but, truth be told, the timing hardly matters. The more I thought about it, what did seem to matter was that the cookies that had come out of my oven were somehow strangely symbolic of this age's culinary environment. This is an age in which we not only experiment with seemingly incompatible flavors , but also live for the world of artisanal (a much overused word) sweets. In my mind, there is perhaps no better example of this than the combination of bacon and chocolate--in cookies, in cupcakes and, even in some cases, ice cream.


Although it took Gopnik's article to make me wonder what the future generations (my grandchildren--a scary thought!) will think about the movies and TV shows exploring the early 2000s/2010s--will they marvel at our capacity to eat sugar or be disgusted by it? Will they wonder how we ever could have spent $4.50 on cookies and giant cinnamon rolls when so much of our world was starving?--this is far from the first time that I've made these cookies. I first made them for Christmas in 2009 after getting the recipe from my good friend in Maine; after baking them, my mom and I went to the store. When we returned home, we discovered that my brother had eaten them all. The second time I made them was for a visiting scholar from Sweden, who had never heard of such things and wondered what they would taste like. Eager to attract followers to the bacon and chocolate movement, I happily made them for her; she liked them and I sent her the recipe. Why it's taken me so long to share them with you all, I don't know.


But a few weeks ago, with some bacon in the fridge, they simply seemed like the thing to make. I love the way that the smoky-salty flavor of the bacon tastes against the sweetness of the chocolate; somehow they balance each other well.  I will say, however, that as much as I like them and as much as most of the men in my life have enjoyed them (my brother, male friends in the department, the Greek and my Mad Men watching buddy), if you're not a bacon fan, you most likely won't enjoy these cookies. They can, as one friend pointed out, taste kind of "porky." I was thinking that one way to get around this, which would also add another dimension of flavor to the cookies, might be to add 1/3 cup maple syrup instead of sugar. After all, I first realized the potential of bacon and sweet things long ago when a the maple syrup I would pour on Sunday morning pancakes would inevitably work its way to the bacon that would be sitting on the other side of the plate....My thought is that even if the future generations judge us harshly for our bacon-chocolate loving ways, they might still agree that bacon, pancakes and maple syrup make for the holy trinity of breakfast foods.

Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields slightly less than 2 dozen cookies, depending on how you drop them

Slightly adapted from NPR's Bacon Gets its Just Desserts

5 strips bacon
1 cup, plus 3 Tbsp., all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 stick 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 walnut pieces, toasted

-In a large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon, turning several times, until browned, done and slightly crispy, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
-Chop finely, or cut into tiny pieces with kitchen scissors. 
-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
-In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda and salt.
-Using an electric or a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugars in a large bowl.
-Add egg and vanilla extract, and beat until just blended.
-Add the dry ingredients; beat until just incorporated and the flour is well incorporated.
-Stir in the chocolate chips, toasted walnut pieces and bacon with a wooden spoon.
-Drop one large tablespoon cookie dough 2 to 3 inches apart (as they will spread out while baking; the fully baked texture of the cookies will be slightly thick and crispy on the bottom) on baking sheet. -Bake for 10 to 15 minutes (N.B. Around the ten-minute point, keep checking them; it took mine less time to bake and you don't want them to burn), or until firm and golden brown around the edges, and still slightly soft in the center.
-Transfer to a rack and cool for about 15 - 20 minutes.
-Enjoy while warm and, if you have leftovers, store in an airtight container.

5 comments:

  1. I'm going to need to make these as soon as possible. I think I'll try this with the maple syrup because that sounds amazing! And also, I will use GF flour, of course. Would you suggest increasing the amount of flour to counter the added liquid of the syrup?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi, Elizabeth! Sorry to be responding only now, but I was at Tahoe this weekend and we were driving back today. My thought is this (and to be sure about the math, I've consulted the engineer in my life!): I would still add the 1/3 cup of brown sugar, but substitute 1/3 cup of maple syrup for the 1/2 cup of white. That would lead to about 1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon more of water, which means that adding about an extra tablespoon and a half of flour should do the trick. If it still looks runny (the dough should be on the thicker side), maybe 1/2 to 1 tablespoon more of flour. I'm sorry I can't be more specific, but without testing it myself, these are just rough mathematical estimates. Please let me know how they turn out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Katy! I think I'm going to try these this weekend, if I can get myself to the store. :) I'll let you know how they turn out. Maybe I'll have extras to bring in Monday.

      Delete
  3. I made the cookies. Two ways, actually. I did one batch with maple syrup. I like that they puffed up like I'm used to with GF cookies and they taste yummy. I made another batch with honey, because I thought I would give it a shot since I have a bunch of raw honey. To my utter amazement they flattened and spread like a regular cookie. I was truly shocked! I like the flavor as well, though I think the honey might be a bit overpowering. But I'm glad I know how to get a GF cookie to spread.

    Making them reminded me of these awesome cottage cheese muffins with hickory smoked bacon and chives that I made forever ago from my gorgeous Blackbird Bakery cookbook. Those things totally blew my mind. They had so many things in them that seem incompatible (like raisins! Moriah wasn't so sure about those) but it all worked together to make something incredible. Man did I go through those fast. :) I'll have to bring that in to show you sometime. I think you would enjoy it. I am utterly intimidated by most of the recipes, but I still give things a shot. I have some leftover cookies if you're going to be around. Let me know if you would like to try them.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the update, Elizabeth! I'm so glad that you made them and that they turned out. I should mention that the original NPR recipe (I'm not sure if you took a look at it or not) suggested two routes: the first for thin, almost flat cookies and the second for thicker, denser ones. I prefer the latter, especially with the weight of the bacon and chocolate, which is the recipe I provided here. But I suppose that doesn't account for the difference between the maple syrup vs. the honey cookies; maybe it's the difference in weight between honey and maple syrup? Not that I can claim to know all that much about gluten-free baking! I'm simply glad that you found a way to get cookies to flatten and spread!

    Those muffins sound delicious (even with the raisins, but I've long been a proponent of meat and fruit); I would love to see that book sometime if you wouldn't mind sharing. I have lots of cookbooks, so perhaps we could do an exchange?

    I would love to try the cookies; I might be in this afternoon, although I'm not sure. It all depends on how quickly I do the laundry. But I'll definitely be in tomorrow if they last that long! :)

    ReplyDelete

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...