On a couple occasions over the last few weeks I have written about the foodiemeet bake off that I was entered in as a competitor. I’m pleased to report that my bacon blondies took first prize in the taste category from the crowd voters. In today’s post I’m going to share the recipe and the process that went into developing it.
Obviously, I’m a really big fan of bacon. There is something about cured and smoked pork belly that gets my culinary juices flowing. Like bread and butter, bacon is a product that is still consumed in great quantities even though very few of us go to the trouble of making it. I have made my own a couple times and really wanted to work some homemade bacon into my recipe.
This sounds weird–even to me–but I still remember the first time that sweet maple syrup crossed the imaginary line on my breakfast plate (I was a picky eater so at one point the lines were actual on one of those sectioned plates) and made friends with salty bacon. Okay, so not life-changing but this accidental meeting changed my tastes enough for me to remember it. If salted caramels can be a trendy rage I couldn’t see why bacon blondies wouldn’t work.
Over the last year I have made blondies more times than I can remember. They’re really easy to make because no standing mixer or electric beaters are needed and they are cooked in a pan so unlike cookies don’t need to be tediously portioned out and there is no waiting to start a second pan. Cook’s Illustrated has an excellent recipe that I am going to use as a base and adapt from.
The first change I made was to omit the nuts. I have never really liked nuts in baked goods (see above paragraph about my past as a picky eater) but especially not in brownies (or blondies). They seem particularly superfluous in bacon blondies because the bacon already provides toothsome, chewy bits and its smokiness dominates the back-end taste the way nuts usually would. I also simplified from the original and used only semisweet chocolate instead of both white and semisweet.
I have added cinnamon to the mix because I think it plays so well with bacon and chocolate. The senses of taste and smell are inter-related and much of what we think we are tasting in our mouth is actually being sensed through receptors in our nose but cinnamon really seems like a flavour that is perceived by scent before we take a bite while chocolate is the opposite.
The final flavour change I made was to dial the salt back slightly to compensate for the saltiness from the bacon.
When I was testing the recipe I accidentally developed an adaptation to the technique. For tasting purposes I wanted to make two half batches–one with candied bacon and one with bacon dusted with cinnamon. I don’t have any half brownie pans so I used two loaf pans instead. This variation is a change worth keeping because when cooked in a loaf pan all of the squares are edge pieces. Not only does everybody get to sample the textural contrast between gooey centre and brown and crispy edge but when cooked in a brownie pan the centre, no-edge squares can have a problematic lack of structural integrity.
Miss Piggies (a.k.a. Bacon Blondies)
Adapted from the Cook’s Illustrated recipe for Blondies.
- 150 g (5 oz) cinnamon dessert bacon or substitute store-bought (I did in the test batches) but thick cut is better and obviously anything like pancetta that has black pepper, garlic, and savoury spices should be used with caution
- 210 g (7.5 oz, 1 1/2 cup) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 heaping teaspoon table salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 170 g (6 oz, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
- 300 g (10 1/2 oz, 1 1/2 packed cup) light brown sugar
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten so that the barrier between yolk and white is broken
- 4 teaspoons vanilla paste (or extract)
- 150 g (5 oz, 5 squares) semi-sweet Baker’s chocolate, coarsely chopped so that no piece is larger than about a centimeter and a half cube.
- Arrange slices of bacon on a well-greased broiler tray or a similarly lubricated wire rack and cookie sheet setup and put the pan into a cold oven. Set oven to 400°F and cook until bacon is just starting to crisp, turning once. I find this takes about twelve minutes a side but this will vary widely depending on how thick your bacon is. Thin store-bought stuff will be done more quickly and you want to be careful not to over crisp the bacon. Remove from oven and pat with paper to remove excess fat. Cut into bacon bit size pieces.
- Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Create two aluminum foil slings that are each about twelve inches longer than the length of a standard loaf pan (9″ X 5″) and about four inches wider than its width. Fit the aluminum foil into the pans so that the excess hangs over both of the short sides of the pan. Use your fingers to press the foil tightly into the corners of the pan. Spray the inside of the pan and foil liberally with nonstick cooking spray.
- Whisk dry ingredients (AP flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and table salt) in a medium size bowl until very well combined.
- In another medium bowl (the larger of the two if there is a difference) whisk together the melted and cooled butter and the brown sugar. Try to break up any clumps of sugar. Add the eggs and vanilla and continue whisking until well combined.
- With a rubber spatula fold the dry ingredients into the wet until there are no large clumps of flour but the ingredients are not fully integrated. Add the bacon and the chocolate and continue folding until the ingredients are barely integrated. There should still be faint hints of flour in places but no un-hydrated clumps. Do not over mix or gluten will form and the blondies will be tough and chewy.
- Bake in preheated oven for 23 to 26 minutes, flipping (front to back, not top to bottom) and reversing the pans once. The blondies are done when the top surface has started to crack and is just turning a golden brown in spots.
- Remove from the oven and cool, in the pan, on a wire rack. Use the aluminum foil sling to lift the blondies from the pan and peel the foil away. (Parchment paper would be easier to peel but because it doesn’t have the heft of foil I’m not sure that it would perform the sling function as well.)