Gentle Readers, rarely have I been so excited to share a recipe that I have not yet tasted. This post really highlights the power of Twitter and bacon in terms of connectivity, and I am heading into the test kitchen to work on a lazy lady version based on the power of the picture alone.
But I digress. Without further adieu, please allow me to introduce you to my friend Lisa (@TheRealLisaC). In her own words, here’s her fantastic culinary breakthrough.
Bacon Pecan Ice Cream Recipe
I’ll admit it: I was afraid. Afraid of making the ice cream too rich, too sweet, too over-the-top. It turns out that with bacon ice cream, as in business and life, opting for the cautious–or as some prefer to call it–the sensible approach produces acceptable but underwhelming outcomes. There may also be some lessons in here somewhere about cooking against type: I’m really more of a chocolate person, to begin with.
That said, I am rather fond of making myself a small sundae of vanilla ice cream, Trader Joe’s Caramel-Sea Salt sauce (warmed), and candied pecans, which I also get from TJ’s [Editor’s Note: I plan to run, not walk, to score some of both for the test kitchen]. Sometimes I use their “Very Crunchy, Lightly Sweetened” pecans, which are a bit cinnamony, but I really like it with their “Sweet & Spicy” pecans. The vanilla ice cream that I prefer to make is creamy but fairly mild in flavor; it only uses two eggs. Think Dreyer’s without the stabilizers that make it chewy instead of creamy. That sundae was, flavor-wise, my starting point in figuring out this bacon ice cream idea.
Now, in terms of how I made it…Lord Google put me on the path of using brown sugar instead of white in the custard. And I liked this recipe’s approach to candying the bacon. But this is when I started getting scared. 5 egg yolks? Wouldn’t that be too rich with the bacon? (Not to mention I generally avoid making ice creams that involve tossing 4+ egg whites–the waste annoys me. And my schedule doesn’t allow for making something else with them in addition to the ice cream!) So I reverted to my usual vanilla ice cream, with some minor variations (see below). I also decided not to use plain toasted rather than candied pecans of either variety–can’t be too sweet! Would be too weird with the bacon!
Custard for bacon ice cream:
2 Tbps all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 2/3 c. whole milk
2/3 c. light or dark brown sugar (I used dark) [Editor’s Note: I support this, more caramelly]
1 c. heavy cream
2 tsp vanilla extract
Beat eggs in a med-large bowl until thoroughly combined, then beat in flour and salt. Set aside. Combine milk with brown sugar and bring to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan (2.5 qt non-stick is a good bet). Using an instant-read thermometer, heat milk to 175F. Slowly beat hot milk mixture into eggs, a portion at a time. Pour the entire mixture back into the pan. Quickly rinse out the bowl to remove any sugar granules, etc, and set aside to dry. Heat custard on medium-low heat, stirring *constantly* until it begins to thicken–many recipes give the wonderfully vague instruction, “until it coats the back of a spoon”. IMPORTANT: don’t turn up the heat or try to hurry this along. It’ll take a good 15 min to get there. I produced many a pot of milky scrambled eggs until I finally learned to view this part as a meditative exercise, like kneading bread. The other absolutely critical thing: as it starts to thicken, check the temp regularly. Once it gets between 183-185F, immediately remove from heat and pour through a fine-mesh sieve back into the bowl. Dispose of any lumps. Allow the custard to cool, stirring every once in a while to release heat and prevent a skin from forming. Once mostly cooled, stir in the cream and vanilla, cover and chill at least 4 hours or overnight. Once it’s chilled, you pour the custard into an ice cream maker and let it go Per Manufacturer’s Instruction, adding in solids (like, say, candied bacon and pecans) once the custard is semi-frozen, usually 5-10 min before it’s supposed to be done.
The next morning I candied the bacon following the Lebovitz instructions. BTW, 2 tsps of brown sugar isn’t anywhere close to what you need for 5 strips of bacon. 1 tsp per slice still equates to a fairly light dusting. We normally bake our bacon on a rack, but this recipe seemed to suggest the grease was supposed to merge with the sugar to form a glaze, so I went with the bacon straight on aluminum foil. I wound up pouring off 2/3rds of the fat halfway through. The glaze never turned brown, but when the bacon itself was browned enough and crispy I took it out and let it cool on a rack. It turns out this approach, even with 5 tsps of brown sugar instead of two, makes for a fairly light glaze. It’s actually quite nice: just sweet enough to offset the aggressive saltiness of the bacon and add a bit of crispness without being crusty. It was light enough that I started to think candied pecans might have been just fine after all, but by then it was too late–I needed the ice cream done and didn’t have any candied pecans in the house. So I toasted ~1 c. chopped pecans and let them cool, then got the custard going in the ice cream maker.
Mr. Lebovitz says the bacon should be cut to the size of rice grains, but that didn’t seem toothsome enough, so I went for about 1/4″ dice. Even at that size, the bacon wound up being broken down quite a bit in the ice cream maker, so I might cut it larger next time. Also, as it turned out, the mildness of the ice cream didn’t set off the baconness; instead the creaminess kind of hid the bacon flavor. Next time I think I will go with a version with more eggs, perhaps just follow the Leibovitz recipe in its entirety (except no liquor and yes candied pecans).
2/3 male consumers of this ice cream* said the custard base should be smokier. One suggested using Liquid Smoke, which I’m thinking one could use in place of part of the vanilla extract–maybe 1 tsp of each? I also thought of using smoked salt in place of the regular salt (and no Liquid Smoke), which would be subtler, but perhaps insufficient for a whole batch. Further experiments in this area may be conducted at some undetermined point in the future.
*Knowing your audience may be important here: the two lobbying for smoky custard are American-born and -bred, and also fairly serious barbecuers. #3, who expressed no opinion about this, was born in India and grew up partly in Dubai, and views American barbecue as a charming and delicious foreign custom. Women were slightly skeptical of this smokiness idea.
Final takeaway: it’s bacon–go big! Go bold! Display wacky American excess in all its glory!
Now that, my people, is a recipe!! Hats off to you Lisa for a most excellent experiment! I’m going to take a few shortcuts and do some experimentation. Look for an upcoming blog inspired by this recipe. I have enjoyed bacon-bourbon-pecan Locopops at my local paleteria, but also found the bacon not bacon-y enough. With my aversion to Liquid Smoke, I am going to have to find a different way to turn up the BAM!
What is the wackiest flavor of ice cream you’ve ever eaten or craved? Post a comment below. We’re not here to judge, we’re here to take your ideas and make sundaes out of them.
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Coming up Sunday, it’s Weekly Menus! Summertime is here, and the cooking is easy!