Monday, September 19, 2011

Chocolate and Bacon? Yes - Perfect Companions!

Ahhhh…Temptation Tuesday. I believe I’m in the mood for chocolate this week. Originally I was going to work on a version of my Mom’s Chocolate Pudding Cake, but good friend and fellow cooking aficionado, Bev, found a recipe for Bacon-Bourbon Pecan Chocolate Brownies. We’d talked about these at dinner last week, and I was totally blown away by the idea of them. Bev made these for a family birthday party and the reviews were enthusiastic.

What’s not to like? Chocolate? Good stuff! Bacon? Well, heck yeah! Bourbon? Now you’re talking! Put these together in one recipe and it couldn’t help but be something I wanted to try.

The original recipe is from Food & Wine magazine and is baked in a 9x9-inch pan making, what, 4 large brownies? OK, I exaggerate – the recipe says 24 brownies out of a 9x9-inch pan, but who are they kidding!  Looks like 8 would be a good number. And I’m not saying I couldn’t eat 8 of these, but I still decided to do my waistline a favor and cut this down to something more manageable for the single baker.

I tend to make brownies and cakes in half or quarter batches. This allows for dessert plus a little sumpin' sumpin' to snack on the next day. If you’re limiting your sweets intake, feel free to freeze half for another time. Or, of course if you're feeling generous, go find the original recipe and make the whole thing and share with friends or co-workers - it might increase your chances of getting a good gift come the holidays!

My 8x8 inch pan with my 4x7 inside.  If you can
find one or two of these they're a great
buy for a single cook or baker.
Baking for One
One key to baking brownies and small cakes is the baking pan. Almost everyone has an 8x8 or a 9x9 inch baking pan in the cupboard and most of us have a 13x9 inch pan, but we need to leave those behind for times when there are more people in the house.

For the single baker there are a couple of options. One is the muffin tin. Perfectly portioned and sized for one, these are obviously good for single portion cupcakes and muffins. Brownies, on the other hand, tend to stick to the bottom and sides of the pans and that could mean digging them out of small spaces like muffin cups leaving you with more brownie crumbs than actual brownie.

There are two good options remaining for smaller batch baking. First option - since I do a lot of baking smaller batches of casseroles, I have some small 4x7x1 1/2 inch Pyrex dishes that are mini-versions of the 9x13 dish. I happened across these at the Corning outlet store many years ago and use them often. They would be perfect for these brownies. However, I’d admit that not everyone has these. A quick internet search didn’t turn these up for sale anywhere but you may run across them at the outlet stores like I did. Given that……

The best option is probably one that everyone has in the kitchen – a bread loaf pan. Ideal because it’s about half the size of an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan, it has a rather simple shape that you can lift brownies out of if you’ve lined the pan with parchment or waxed paper or even foil (which I highly recommend). It also allows for taller baking in case there is more batter and it needs to climb up rather than spread out.

Prepare your loaf pan by spraying with a non-stick baking spray and fitting it with a sling of parchment, waxed paper or foil allowing it to be long enough to lift the brownies out of the pan once they are cooled.

Ready – here we go!

BACON-BOURBON BROWNIES WITH PECANS

1/4 cup pecans
2 slices bacon
4 teaspoons bacon fat*
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, chopped
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 packed cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350°. Line a 9-inch square baking pan with parchment paper, allowing 2 inches of overhang on 2 opposite sides. Spray the paper with vegetable spray.

Spread the pecans in a skillet and toast over medium high heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes, until fragrant. Let cool, then coarsely chop the nuts.

In a skillet, cook the bacon over moderate heat, turning once, until crisp, about 6 minutes. Drain on paper towels and let cool; reserve 4 teaspoons of the fat. Coarsely chop the bacon.

In a saucepan, combine both chocolates with the butter and stir over very low heat, until melted; scrape into a large bowl.

Using a whisk or wooden spoon, beat in by hand both sugars with the reserved 1 ½ tablespoons of bacon fat. Beat in the bourbon.

Add the eggs and salt and beat until smooth. Sift the cocoa and flour into the bowl and beat in the butter mixture until blended.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the bacon and pecans on top. Bake for about 50 minutes, until the brownies are set around the edges but slightly wobbly in the center; a toothpick inserted into the center should have some batter clinging to it.

Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool completely. Lift the brownies out of the pan using the parchment paper.

Cut into squares or rectangles and serve.

* OK, some of  you are still squeemish about using bacon fat.  This is actually called for in the original recipe and I was a bit surprised to see it here but for the same reasons I use bacon fat in my cornbread, use it here.  It lends a hint of smokey goodness to the brownie itself to compliment the bacon bits on the top. 

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