With all these zucchini, eggplant, scallions and cukes to deal with, it seems more than a little ludricrous to be making candy right now. Not to mention that standing over a pot of boiling sugar in the height of summer is not what everyone would choose to do. Then again, I’m known for my less-than-conventional decisions, not to mention my ludicrousness (ludicrosity?). And sometimes a girl just needs bacon. And candy. Or bacon candy.
I know what you’re thinking; bacon caramel is so last year. But does spicy, salty, delectable bacon candy ever go out of style? I think not. For this recipe, I used the excellent chipotle-smoked bacon from Mountain Products Smokehouse up in the Catskills, but you can substitute any high quality, thick-cut bacon; simply add a little more chipotle powder to the mix. Also, I highly recommend David Lebovitz’s salted butter caramel recipe; I know, I know, I’m apparently a DL fan-boy of late, but this recipe is everything a recipe should be: simple and straightforward, yet detailed enough so that you understand exactly what the caramel should be doing at each step. I’ve always had trouble with candy-making in the past, yet by following David’s tips & techniques, I made my first ever batch of really kick-ass caramel (I highly recommend that you surf over and read both his recipe and his 10 Tips for Making Caramel).
And how does it taste? What can I say? It’s spicy, it’s smoky, it’s salty, it’s sweet. It’s unbelievably good: a party in your mouth for every bite-sized morsel. I’ve had to hide them away, tucked behind the mountain of eggplant in the fridge, so that I don’t eat 20 of them at a time. I know I should give some away so that I don’t eat the entire batch myself (well, OK, Tai has had a few.. maybe more than a few), but I can’t quite bring myself to do it. (Yet. I’m working on it. I may have to develop a 12-step program for bacon candy.)
There’s no denying that candied bacon caramel is over the top; as such, it deserves over the top ingredients. Use the best bacon, butter, and cream that you can find. Real fleur de sel, cultured creamery butter, farm fresh, un-pasteurized cream, and center-cut, thick, farm bacon will all ensure that this candy is a show stopper.
Candied Chipotle Bacon
- 3/4 lb Mountain Smokehouse Chipotle Bacon, or other good quality, thick-cut bacon (7 – 8 slices)
- 3 tbsp raw sugar (organic turbinado)
- about 1/4 tsp ground chipotle pepper
- about 1/4 tsp fleur de sel
- about 1/8 tsp ground cayenne pepper
- 3/4 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 tsp Mexican vanilla extract (or regular vanilla extract)
- 4 tbsp butter, cut into cubes and at room temperature, divided (I used unsalted)
- 1/4 tsp fleur de sel, plus extra for garnish
- 1 cup sugar (organic evaporated cane juice)
- 1/2 cup light corn syrup
- Cook bacon. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lay bacon slices out on top of a broiler pan (or in a baking sheet with sides). Sprinkle liberally with chipotle, then cayenne pepper. Layer with turbinado sugar then sprinkle with fleur de sel. Bake in the pre-heated oven, turning strips over once during the cooking time (sprinkle again with chipotle, cayenne, sugar and salt), until very crisp, about 20 – 25 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack over a plate to catch grease (paper towels will stick to candied bacon). Once cool, crumble or chop bacon into 1/4-inch or smaller pieces.
- Prepare mise en place for caramel. Line a 10-inch loaf pan with aluminum foil and spray with cooking spray; set aside. Gather and measure out ingredients.
- Heat cream, 2 tbsp of butter, vanilla and 1/4 tsp of fleur de sel in a small saucepan over medium heat until the mixture comes to a boil. Remove from heat, cover, and keep warm.
- Cook syrup. Place a metal strainer, that fits your syrup pan, near the stove. In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan, add sugar and corn syrup. Heat over medium flame, stirring gently, until sugar is dissolved (less than 5 minutes); continue heating, stirring minimally, only in order to avoid any hotspots, until a candy thermometer reads 310 degrees F.
- Add cream. Remove from heat, add cream mixture through the strainer (to prevent splatter and burning caramel landing on your skin), and stir quickly to incorporate cream into hot syrup. Continue stirring rapidly until the mixture is smooth.
- Heat caramel. Return to heat and cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, to 260 degrees F (hard ball stage).
- Add butter, bacon, and pour. Remove from heat, add butter and stir until smooth. Add in about half of the bacon and stir to incorporate. Pour caramel into the prepared loaf pan. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to level the top; sprinkle the remaining bacon evenly across the top of the caramel. Finish with a sprinkling of fleur de sel.
- Cool and slice. Allow caramel to cool completely on a rack (I allowed mine to cool at room temperature for 3 hours, then stored overnight in the refrigerator before slicing, mainly because it is high summer and 90+ degrees). Lift out the caramel with the foil, peel foil away and slice caramel with a long sharp knife (if refrigerated allow to warm to room temperature, or just slightly cooler than room temperature, before slicing. Heat a knife blade over a flame to facilitate a clean, easy cut).
Yields 72 bite-sized morsels of spiced-bacon-candy-goodness.
- I dare you to improve upon this recipe. I double-dog dare you!
Wrap pieces individually in waxed paper and store in an air-tight container at room temperature for up to 1 month. (Mine are currently stored in the fridge due to the hot summer temperatures; straight out of the fridge they have a toffee-like consistency, but they soften to caramel texture within minutes. They do tend to get a little greasy as they soften, but I don’t see many options in this heat, and the grease doesn’t deter from their deliciousness.)
All year round, baby.