Bakin’ with Bacon

The title of this post should provide an instant indication of how awesome these recipes will be…because they happen to include a special guest appearance by my all-time favorite breakfast meat: BACON.  Well, unless we’re talking biscuits and gravy, then my favorite breakfast meat becomes sausage.  But, unlike its crumbly (yet delicious) step-sibling of breakfast, bacon has two of the qualities I find important in a dessert: salt and crunch.
People have mixed responses to bacon infused desserts.  Some are skeptical; others are curious, and a good handful know that if there’s one way to improve upon anything, it’s to add bacon.  Think about it…your tomato and mayonnaise sandwich seems a little dull, right?  Add bacon.  Your salad just doesn’t have nearly enough protein or crunch?  Bacon would go nicely.  Maple donut seems a bit bland?  Crumble some bacon on top, and you’ve got a convenient breakfast ring of pancakes, syrup and bacon – to go!  The porky possibilities are endless.
A few weeks ago, we finally took the plunge and had our first bacon baking experience: Maple Bacon Bourbon Cupcakes.  They were just as delicious and sinfully decadent as you’re imagining.  A simple (from scratch) chocolate cupcake topped with a maple bourbon frosting, with bacon crumbles on top.  We also added bacon and bacon drippings to the batter prior to baking.  The result was a Kentucky Derby breakfast brunch in one sweet little cupcake.
Be still, my heart!  And arteries.  And cholesterol.

Most recently, we decided to go the brownie route.  Brownies are, quite possibly, my favorite baked good.  There’s nothing quite like a gooey, warm, chocolatey, fattening hunk of brownie.  And what could possibly be done to improve upon one of the oven’s most perfect desserts than bacon?
Behold…the Caramel Bacon Brownie!
(insert delicious photo here…)
While I wish I’d managed to snap a photo of the entire pan, they just didn’t last long enough.  So, imagine a delicous brownie with swirls of caramel, infused with bacon.  Mmmm.
In fact, moments before I wrote this post, I found myself picking the crumbs of caramel, bacon and chocolate out of the brownie pan.   Anyone ever see the episode of Sex and the City, where Miranda can’t stop eating the chocolate cake?  She goes as far as to throw the entire chocolate cake in the garbage can, in an effort to banish the unwanted calories.  A few minutes later, she sneaks back into the kitchen, and takes a hunk of cake out of the garbage can.  Then, in utter disgust, she grabs a bottle of Dawn dish soap, squirts it all over the cake and slams the lid to the garbage can.  She then calls Carrie to revel in the embarassment of eating “garbage can cake.”  Yes, folks…that’s where I was headed moments ago…garbage can cake territory.
Personally, the brownies were better than the cupcakes, so that’s the recipe I’m sharing with you today.  I hope your physician thanks me later…
Caramel Bacon Brownies

Brownie Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
8 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract (optional, but delicious)
Bacon Caramel Ingredients:
One package maple bacon, fried crisp (yes, fried)
6 tablespoons salted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
Directions: First, we need to make the caramel…it needs some time to cool before getting plopped into all that brownie goodness.  Fry two strips of bacon in a medium non-stick saucepan, then remove (you can fry the rest in a larger frying pan, or if you prefer, bake it at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes – DO NOT MICROWAVE).  Once you’ve removed the bacon, add your heavy cream (to the bacon drippings), then set aside to cool.  In a medium sautee pan, melt the sugar over medium-high heat.  When the sugar has melted and turned an amber color, and the butter and heavy cream mixture.  Stir until butter has melted, then set aside to cool.  Crumble the rest of your bacon, and set aside.
Next, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a double boiler (or microwaveable bowl), then transfer to a large bowl and add the cocoa powder, mixing well.  Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla (and almond extract, if using), and then the flour.  Stir until combined.
In a greased and floured 8×8 pan (hint: just use Baker’s Joy), pour half the brownie batter.  Drop spoonfulls of the caramel, then a few sprinkles of the chopped bacon.  Add the remaining batter, drop the remaining caramel, and sprinkle the remaining bacon.  Swirl with a knife.
Bake for 35-45 minutes (mine took the full 45 and were still gooey and soft).  Caramel will not seem set when brownies are removed from oven; it will firm up a bit after cooling for about an hour.
These are a perfect blend of sweet, salty and rich chocolate…and definitely “eat with a fork” brownies.
Enjoy!
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