SOOOO clearly the weekly bake hasn’t been happening. instead, i’ve been honing my skills with baking classes at the Institute of Culinary Education as well as helping out the lovely and inspiring ladies behind the soon-to-be dessert/cocktail bar Butter & Scotch. i also competed in the 2013 Bacon Takedown, and am overwhelmed to report my entry won the People’s Choice award. (the bounty? a year’s supply of hormel black label bacon, of course!)
recipe #12: bac & blue pie. pie crust squares topped with candied bacon, blue cheese ice cream, caramel apple sauce, and salt & peppered pecans.
soundtrack: lately i have been nostalgically listening to albums that came out during my first year living in NYC, and jammed especially hard to tv on the radio’s “return to cookie mountain” while making this dish.
a) making the pie crust squares:
ingredients: 1/2 pound of butter, 12 ounces all purpose flour (for a flakier crust, you can use 8 ounces of AP flour and 4 ounces of cake flour but not necessary), 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, 3 fluid ounces of very cold water.
1. cut the butter into 6 or 8 pieces. use a scale to weigh the dry ingredients and combine; rub butter in by hand or by using a mixer with the paddle attachment on lowest speed, leaving pieces of butter no more than 1/4-inch across.
2. stir in very cold water until dough JUST holds together. scrape dough out of bowl; shape into a 3-inch thick cylinder.
3. wrap well in plastic and chill until firm (ideally 1-2 hours).
4. once chilled, roll out on a floured surface into a rectangle. use a pizza cutter to slice into about 1.5″ squares, then bake at 375 degrees in the oven until golden brown. (i did not use an egg wash because my squares were going to be on the bottom of the dish and the effect would be lost.)
b) making blue cheese ice cream (1 quart, requires an ice cream maker):
ingredients: 5 ounces gorgonzola (you may use any blue cheese you like, I just went with the gorg because it wouldn’t taint the color of the ice cream as much as others), 2 cups half & half, 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 4 large egg yolks, 1 tsp ground white pepper, (optional) 1 tsp bacon fat.
1. crumble the gorg into a large bowl. set a mesh strainer over the top.
2. in a medium saucepan, heat together the half & half, white pepper, and (optional but highly recommended) bacon fat on medium heat until it is steaming and on the verge of a light boil. lower the heat slightly.
3. in a separate (preferably metal) bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until a pale yellow color. temper the eggs by slowly pouring about 1/2 – 3/4 cup of the hot half & half into the bowl and whisking continuously until the entire mixture is warm. If you are using a metal bowl you can feel the underside to know when it’s ready.
4. Next, pour the egg mixture back into the remaining heated half & half in the saucepan, whisking furiously so that the eggs do not cook. Keep whisking until you see steam. If possible, dip a wooden spoon into the mixture and use your finger draw a line through the residue. If the line stays solid and does not bleed you know it is ready:
5. Pour the mixture through the strainer and stir it into the cheese. Stir until most of the cheese is melted.
6. Chill overnight, and then churn in your ice cream maker until firm. Then get ready to blow some motherf$%#ing minds with your blue cheese ice cream!
c) making candied bacon:
ingredients: 12 slices bacon, 1 TBS black pepper, 1/3 cup light brown sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. You can either chop the bacon before hand or if you like your bacon crispier, keep them as slices. Drop the bacon in whatever form you choose into a bowl, season them with pepper and toss with the brown sugar.
2. Cover a baking sheet with parchment or foil and arrange the bacon in a single layer on top. Sprinkle any sugar left in the bowl over the bacon. Cook until golden brown and fairly crispy, then cook for 10 to 15 minutes longer.
3. Remove from oven and once cool, chop up into bite-size pieces if you didn’t already (or whatever size you are feeling will work best for you!). Then buy some elastic pants because now you know how easy it is to make candied bacon and will probably do it way too often from now on.
d) caramel apple sauce:
ingredients: 1 cup granulated sugar, 1 TBS water, 6 tablespoons room temp unsalted butter cut into pieces, 1/2 cup room temperature heavy cream, 1 tablespoon kosher salt (or fleur de sel if you have!), 1-2 TBS apple juice or apple cider depending how much of that flavor you want
1. Get all of your ingredients ready – or “mis en place” if you like to use terms that make you feel fancy – for quick grabbing because making caramel is super quick and super easy to f%*k up. This means chop up the butter before doing anything! Also when it comes to utensils, the longer the handle the better.
2. To begin, heat the sugar, water (to wet the sugar) and butter over medium high-heat in the bottom of a heavy 2-3 quart saucepan. Most recipes don’t call for the water, and it takes a couple minutes longer this way because you’re waiting for the water to evaporate, but I find it’s a lot hard to ruin it this way so I don’t personally mind. When the water evaporates and the sugar & butter starts to melt, start whisking. Do not stop until all clumps are gone and the mixture is fully melted.
2. Cook the sugar and butter mixture until it reaches exactly amber color pictured below, which i borrowed from this excellent blog because i am not skilled enough to take my own pic while making caramel.
3. VERY IMPORTANT: Remove the pan from the heat! Then stand back from the pot (there’s usually a sharp rise in steam) and slowly pour in the heavy cream. Whisk until cream is incorporated and caramel is smooth. Whisk in the salt and apple-whatever-you-decided-to-use.
4. Let the caramel sauce cool, usually about 10-15 minutes. Pour the caramel into a large mason jar and then cool to room temperature. Store at room temp.
e) making the pecans:
ingredients: 1 cup of roasted chopped pecans, sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste, 1 tsp bacon fat (can you tell there is a special place in my soon-to-be-clogged heart for this stuff?)
the plan: drop bacon fat in a skillet over low heat, then add pecans and salt and pepper to taste. i really wanted the salt and pepper to stand out against the sweetness of everything else, so i used more than most people probably would.
f) THE FINALE!
honestly, you can piece the puzzle together however you see fit. i presented mine with pie crust square on bottom (like a cracker), slabbed the candied bacon on top, then added the blue cheese ice cream topped with the caramel sauce and pecans. i also thought about just crumbling up the pie crust and making this into more of a sundae. no matter what you decide, hope you enjoy!
oh and i’m sorry for the nonsensical shifts from all lower case to typical upper case formatting and then back again throughout this recipe post. just consider the chaos a pretty accurate reflection of what my mind feels like when i am involved in a cooking competition.