If 'put a bird on it!' is the call of the Portlandia hipster, then 'wrap it in bacon!' has become the anthem of the unoriginal 'foodie', often typed in ALL CAPS and accompanied by excessive exclamation point usage. We are a culture so obsessed with the pliable porcine strips that we have food trucks offering the product undivided attention. We're wrapping matzoh balls in them for lack of authentic inspiration. Bacon Soda! Bacon Dental Floss! Bacon Birth Control! (Okay, I made the last one up... I think.)
Yes, we get it. Bacon makes everything better. (Well, maybe not everything. Last year I was coaxed into a latte with bacon in it. Needless to say, it was disgusting.) Which is why I'm not here to completely lambast its usage as an unoriginal gimmick. What keeps bacon from sinking to the ranks of over-saturated food trends like cupcakes and food trucks* is that it's so damn delicious and it goes so damn well with almost anything. Anyone whose ever tasted bacon and chocolate in the same bite will likely agree.
So it was really only a matter of time before bacon found its way into my ice cream. For my first bacon attempt, I decided to candy the bacon and fold that into some rich olive oil ice cream (below).
I adapted my recipe from Ice Cream guru David Lebovitz's Olive Oil recipe in The Perfect Scoop.
Ingredients for the Olive Oil Ice Cream:
- 1 1/3 cups whole milk
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 5 egg yolks (I used duck eggs)
- 2/3 cup olive oil
- 1 tbsp bourbon
Ingredients for the Candied Bacon:
- 6 strips thick cut bacon
- 1 cup maple syrup (reduced to 2/3 cup)
- 1/2 cup lt. brown sugar
Let's start out with the bacon. In his book, Lebovitz goes into explicit detail on his tests for candying bacon. His conclusion? Light brown sugar is the way to go. He also supposes that reduced maple syrup could possibly do the trick, but couldn't justify the loss of so much maple syrup. I decided to use both. I reduced a cup of (Trader Joe's, not my stash of the good Vermont stuff) maple syrup from 1 cup to about 2/3 and lathered it over top my bacon strips (Lebovitz warns that regular maple syrup mostly slides off during the cooking process). Then I sprinkled the brown sugar over the strips (below) and sent them into the oven at 375 degrees.
Cook the bacon until it's nice and crispy (below, left). If anything went wrong for me in this attempt, it was that I made the mistake of cooking the bacon how I normally like to eat it on its own. Sure, bacon is great when it's slightly undercooked, fatty, soft and juicy. Unfortunately, when you freeze that same bacon, it can become chewy and unpleasant. Err on the side of burnt and crispy and you'll be fine. Once cooked, I diced up the bacon strips and let them cool down (below, right).
Now for the olive oil ice cream. I decided to make this batch particularly indulgent and picked up some Shaner Farms duck eggs (below) from our local butcherettes at Lindy & Grundy. You'll also want to use a high quality olive oil (Lebovitz suggests using one that's fruity). Lebovitz also calls for a pinch of salt, but I figured we might get enough saltiness from the bacon, so I skipped the ingredient.
I warmed the milk and sugar in a saucepan. In a separate bowl, I poured in the cream and set a mesh strainer on top. In a second bowl, I whisked together the egg yolks. The duck eggs provided slightly larger yolks then regular chicken eggs, but the real difference was just how difficult they were to crack open. The shell of a duck egg is like a steel fortress.
I slowly poured the warm mixture into the whisked egg yolks, whisking constantly, then combined the warmed egg yolks and the entire mixture in the saucepan. I stirred the mixture over medium heat until the mixture coated my stirring spatula. Make sure not to overcook and scramble your eggs. Once the mixture was ready, I strained it (below, left) into the bowl containing the cream. I stirred in the olive oil as the bowl cooled in an ice bath (below, right).
I threw the bowl in the fridge until it was completely chilled, then poured it into the ice cream maker to do its thing. Towards the end of the process, I started dropping in chilled pieces of candied bacon, and then into the freezer it went.
The end result? The bacon and olive oil play really nice together (below). But this is really just the tip of the iceberg. I'm thinking about coating my bacon in dark chocolate next time. Or maybe an Elvis Ice Cream that pairs peanut butter and banana with the bacon. Root Beer Bacon?
*Speaking of food trends, is there a bacon cupcake food truck? I'm not even gonna google that, because there probably is.