Let`s start this post off with a giant big-ol`shoutout to Kaela of Local Kitchen Blog. While we`ve never met, Dana and I consider her a friend and have had the pleasure of writing back and forth a lot. If you don`t know her blog, you should (she`s an awesome cook, champion of local and sustainable food and just about the funniest person I know on the Internet). She also inspired this recipe by sharing her kick-butt chipotle bacon caramel and daring someone to improve on her perfection.
Our variation uses more spice, a different variety of dried pepper, maple syrup and a different process to treat the bacon. We used our candied bacon jerky and more spice than our muse. If you don’t want your house to smell like bacon for 3 days I recommend her recipe for making candied bacon (in the link above) as opposed to just using cooked bacon. The jerky adds great texture to this (the fat almost explodes while the meat is chewy like typical jerky) and the dehydrating really brings out the essence of its flavor.
A candy thermometer is an absolute must for this (at least for me as I’m a novice candy maker). Cheating this with an instant read or hand-held thermometer would have been a royal pain in the bacon.
Ingredients (Adapted from Local Kitchen who adapted the caramel from David Lebovitz)
- 0.75 cups whipping cream (35% or higher)
- 0.5 teaspoon vanilla
- 4 tablespoons of room temperature butter
- 0.25 teaspoon fleur de sel
- 1 cup of sugar
- 0.5 cup light-colored corn syrup
- 2-4 tablespoons maple syrup
- 0.5 teaspoon dried hot peppers. I used morita peppers (they are similar to chipotle but I find them smokier)
- 0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 0.75 pounds of bacon jerky
- Heat the cream, 2 tablespoons of butter, 0.25 teaspoon of the salt over medium heat until it boils. Once it boils, remove from heat and cover to keep warm (if a skin forms on the surface, stir to incorporate it into the cream mixture).
- As the cream warms, prepare the bacon by crumbling the jerky (I used my hands).
- Tossing the jerky with maple syrup, cayenne and morita peppers.
- Line a small baking sheet (Kaela suggest a loaf pan) with tin foil and spray with cooking spray (I have a spray can that’s pure canola oil that works great). Measure remaining ingredients and place on the side – the next phase requires careful timing so prepping is key.
- Use your heaviest bottom saucepan and dissolve the sugar into the corn syrup at a medium heat. Stir casually to incorporate the two elements and raise the temperature to 310 degrees (be very careful as this is extremely hot).
- Remove the syrup from the heat and slowly pour the cream mixture into it – pouring it through a strainer can help prevent splatter. Start this process slowly – the addition of the cream will create a bubbly mess at the start and you’ll need extreme care (I wore long-sleeves as further protection). Add the cream as quickly as you safely can.
- Heat the mixture over a medium-high heat until it reaches 260 degrees, stirring almost constantly.
- Remove from heat and work swiftly from this point forward (with care).
- Add remaining butter and half to three-quarters of the bacon into the caramel and stir to incorporate.
- Pour the caramel into your pan – it will cool quickly.
- Top with remaining bacon and tap a few times to help remove any air bubbles and level the candy.
- Allow the pan to cool naturally for 2-3 hours. Using Kaela’s suggestion, I allowed it to cool on a rack to help it cook.
- Any residual oil from the bacon should rise to the top. We poured the small bit of it off rather easily. We also inverted the caramel on a rack after it set.
- If you are in a hurry to eat it, you can cool it in the freezer after the 3 hours.
Caramel can be tricky to cut – cutting it while slightly frozen is effective (although it’s very hard) or you can lightly oil your knife to help the process.
Store these in the fridge wrapped individually (we store small bars). Pieces will stick together and make a nasty mess so wrap them separately. Allow the candy to warm for about 30 minutes on the counter before serving; the texture will change radically.
This caramel is wonderfully sweet, salty and have that extra bite (without being overbearing). We made a quintuple (5) batch without issue.
A big thanks to Joel Solish for the photo; e made this dish for his annual meatluck party and I forgot to take a picture. Joel’s got a great blog as well; the Community Foodist.