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.