Fabulous, Slightly Weird Ice CreamJune 21, 2009
Some combinations of words invoke salivation–for instance, chocolate and covered make a fine pair. I discovered a few weeks ago that at least one word combination can both stimulate the appetite and confuse the intellect: “candied bacon ice cream.” I know what you’re thinking, but please don’t close the window. Hear me out. It’ll be worth your while.
At the time, I was looking for a new ice cream recipe on the website of the fabulous David Lebovitz. I ended up making an apple pie flavor instead, but I vowed to try the bacon confection sometime this summer. “Sometime” was ultimately defined as “yesterday and today.” As it turns out, candied bacon ice cream is absolutely divine.
The custard base tastes kind of like what my mom dunks french toast in before frying it up. It churns up into a rich and creamy ice cream base, with more body than eggless ice creams. Then there’s the bacon–oh, the bacon. I can’t believe I’ve never candied bacon before. What a revelation. In our household, the dogs usually get to lick the bacon drippings from the foil. Not this time–I went through our house delivering spoons of the smoky-sweet drippings to all of the humans. Thank goodness for opposable thumbs. The dogs were SOL.
I knew the bacon was something special, but the finished product really knocked my socks off. The flavors take turns very politely: first the sweetness and the cinnamon hit you. Then you taste the salt of the bacon and finally you’re left with a smoky, chewy mouthful of bacon, with just a hint of sweet crunch from the candy layer. (I think I’m going to up the crunch-factor in future iterations of this recipe; my brother said the bacon was too chewy.)
Trust me on this one. If you have access to ice cream making facilities–even if you have to use the old jar with a marble technique–try it. I’ve adapted Mr. Lebovitz’s recipe slightly because, despite my endless respect for his mad ice cream skillz, I am fundamentally incapable of following a recipe (or knitting pattern) as written. The original recipe is here. Make sure you check out the rest of his site while you’re there; it’s wonderful.
Candied Bacon Ice Cream
For the candied bacon:
5 strips bacon (thin-cut is best)
1/4 cup light brown sugar (roughly)
For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons (45g) salted butter
¾ cup (packed) brown sugar (170g), light or dark (you can use either)
2¾ (675ml) cup half-and-half
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used a high quality Korintje cinnamon, and it made a noticeable difference)
1. To candy the bacon, preheat the oven to 400F (200C).
2. Put the strips of bacon on a rack over a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or aluminum foil, shiny side down.
3. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over each strip of bacon.
4. Bake for 6-8 minutes, or until bacon looks like this.
Flip the bacon strips over, dragging each one through the dark, syrupy liquid that’s collected on the baking sheet in the process. Continue to bake until as dark as mahogany. Remove from oven and cool the strips on a wire rack.
5. Once crisp and cool, chop into little pieces, about the size of grains of rice.
(Bacon bits can be stored in an airtight container and chilled for a day or so, or stored in the freezer a few weeks ahead.)
6. To make the ice cream custard, melt the butter in a heavy, medium-size saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and half of the half-and-half. Pour the remaining half-and-half into a bowl set in an ice bath and set a mesh strainer over the top.
7. In a separate bowl, stir together the egg yolks, then gradually add some of the warm brown sugar mixture to them, whisking the yolks constantly as you pour. Pour the mixture back into the saucepan.
8. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula. (This step took around 10 minutes.)
9. Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath, until cool. Whisk in vanilla and cinnamon.
10. Refrigerate the mixture. Once thoroughly chilled, freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Add the bacon bits during the last moment of churning, or stir them in when you remove the ice cream from the machine.