There is the thinking among some that bakers, as opposed to cooks, are the more rigid of the two. I’m not going to debate the point since I would not be able to disprove the thesis. Baking does not lend itself as easily to the improv that cooking inspires. There is a chemical chain of events that must occur for the proper results. I like it that, when you follow the rules, I mean recipe, the reward is something sweet and delicious. It is that mind-set that causes me to recoil, I mean take notice of things that are out of, or don’t know their place.
Recently, however I feel like the lines are more blurred than ever. For years I have passed a drugstore on the corner of Central Park West and 62nd Street. I’ve never been inside and never really considered it until the other day when I happened to round the corner and glance into the store. My stride halted suddenly when I noticed not one, but two out of place items hanging in the windows. Two very elaborate leather jackets hung from hangers each topped with a jaunty cap.
Okay. Let’s consider the scenarios that would inspire someone to purchase leather outerwear at a drug store. (Not to mention these specific tacky, I mean fancy, jackets.) I suppose someone could be visiting from, say, Florida, and staying with their offspring in the apartment building upstairs from the store. While they unpack they realize, “Oh no! I’ve left my leather jacket at home! Is there a nearby store where I can replace it RIGHT NOW??!!” And all they have to do is go downstairs. Or maybe they’re picking up some shampoo and a pack of dental floss when something soft and buttery catches their eye, there is a nip in the air and lo and behold, they’ve bought a new jacket. Yeah, I’m not convinced.
Last week I saw a pre-Thanksgiving commercial for Shop-Rite Supermarket advertising sales on seasonal holiday food items…as well as a great deal on an Acer computer.
Okay, again. What in the world would cause someone to think that while they are picking up a can of cranberry sauce and a Butterball turkey it would also be a great idea to grab a new laptop. Don’t bother doing any research, going to the new Apple store or even to PC Richard. Just throw it in your shopping cart and hop on the 12 items or less line. It makes no sense! Food and technology don’t belong in the same store.
Which brings me to bacon.
As they (whoever ‘they’ are) say, “Everything is better with bacon.” Which I agree with when it comes to pancakes and eggs, a cobb salad, meatloaf or bacon wrapped scallops. What I haven’t been able to accept is the use of bacon in my baking life. Vosges Chocolate makes Mo’s Bacon Bar in both milk and dark chocolate,
pastry chef & author David Lebovitz created Candied Bacon Ice Cream and Gramercy Tavern is serving a Milk Chocolate Bacon Tart. What is going on here?
So, thinking it isn't fair to 'knock it till I try it,' I figured I’d better tackle this fusion of savory and sweet before I jump on my oven waving a wooden spoon and ranting.
There are variations of this recipe all over the internet, with accompanying raves. Basically it's a Toll House cookie, swapping the chocolate chips for the bacon and the vanilla for the maple syrup. While approaching the idea I thought it might be nice to candy the bacon a bit just to try and balance the smokiness. Then I thought, while staring at the pile of bacon and feeling a little sick, what else goes with maple? Walnuts!
Yes, I broke my own no-nut rule just to give the cookie another dimension in case the bacon was too pronounced. I also poured a little maple syrup in the pan while I toasted the nuts trying to capitalize on the maple-walnut theme. Do you have to do either of these extra steps? No. Could you just throw in the nuts as is and cook the bacon in the microwave, sans sugar? Sure. It’s up to you. If you dare to make these at all.
The reviews were most definitely mixed. If by mixed I really mean pretty bad: "Foul" (Dad) "I love you but these are terrible" (Mom) "What is that weird taste?" (Friend 1), "I pretended there wasn't any bacon and ate three" (Friend 2), "I might like them more if I hadn't just eaten chorizo" (Friend 3). What did I think? You know when something is both disgusting but also kind of good and you can't decide? They are sweet, salty, smoky, buttery, chewy and surprise, bacon-y. And I ate several. But then I thought, "Why am I doing this?" I'd rather have a BLT and a chocolate chip cookie for my lunch. So, if you want a leather jacket go to the Wilson's House of Suede and Leather, buy your computer at Best Buy and keep bacon off my dessert menu. Some things are not better with bacon. In fact, these cookies would be delicious without it.
What Are You Doing Here Bacon? Maple Walnut Cookies
Printer Friendly Version
½ cup butter, softened to room temperature
6 Tablespoons granulated sugar
6 Tablespoons packed light or dark brown sugar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
1 cup + 2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ lb bacon, caramelized and de-fatted (see below) OPTIONAL
1 cup chopped maple candied walnuts (see below)
Pre-heat oven to 375, line two cookie sheets with parchment paper
In small bowl or bag combine flour, baking soda and salt
Cream butter and sugars in electric mixer with paddle attachment until light and fluffy
Add egg and maple syrup to butter and sugar and beat on medium to combine
Slowly add flour mixture and mix to combine on low
Stir in bacon (or not) and walnuts
Chill for 10 minutes.
Drop by 2 teaspoons or mini 2 teaspoon ice cream scoop leaving at least 2 inches between cookies
Bake 8-11 minutes till golden
Cool in pan for 5 minutes then on rack till completely cool
Yield: @45 cookies
1/2 lb bacon, not thick cut
¾ cup light brown sugar
Heat oven to 350
Place sugar in shallow dish
Add strips of bacon and turn to coat each side completely
Lay bacon on rack set over foil wrapped baking sheet with rim or large broiler pan
Bake bacon until dark golden brown, turning once, about 10 minutes per side
Transfer bacon to rack to cool (Do not place on paper towels-bacon will stick because of sugar)
When cool, pull obvious fat away from meat
Chop bacon into small pieces
1 cup walnuts, chopped
2 Tablespoons maple syrup
Heat medium skillet over medium-high heat
Add nuts and shake until they smell toasty and nutty
Carefully add maple syrup, it will sizzle
Stir nuts to coat with syrup and continue to stir until dried and medium dark brown, don’t burn.
Pour into medium bowl and cool