Salted Bacon Caramels…

Did that get your attention? Salted caramels have been the dessert craze for the last few years.  Bacon has also been going through a semi-obsessive movement.  Why not bring them together for gastronomical fantasy?

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You could start with 23 lbs of bacon like I did.  OK time to confess…I might love bacon a bit too much.

Actually, I visited family in Hawaii again this winter and the first thing I hear from my mother when I get off the plane is “shave that beard!”.  That’s irrelevant, but the second thing I hear is “I bought two pork bellies for you to make bacon, get to it!”  What can I say? Momma knows me well.

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For the caramel, I wanted a thick, rich, robust flavor to complement the bacon.  I could go with the typical cream, sugar, and butter.  However I wanted a kick in it.  I started with Alton Brown’s recipe for inspiration and modified it a bit.

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The classic ingredients remain.  However one unusual addition was soy sauce.  The deep, umami aspect soy brings really made it great.  I only use Yamasa soy sauce for everything from sushi to salted caramel now.  I think it has the best flavor.  Others are just dark salty water.

 

 

 

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Time to crisp up some bacon.  I cooked twelve strips of bacon here.  Eight went to the recipe.  Guess where the other four went.

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Once you get your caramel ingredients going, it’s pretty straightforward. Above I’m bringing it up to 230 F.  Candy thermometers are a must here.  Otherwise, you’ll be poking a thermometer in there every few minutes and that’s just primitive. They’re also useful for frying.

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At about 300 F it will turn into that golden color and at 350 F a darker amber.  I went for a very dark flavor, yet not burnt.

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Looks good to me.

 

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When you add butter and cream it’ll foam up so make sure you’re using a pot with high sides.

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Now the hardest part, pouring into a pan and not touching it for at least 4 hours.  It’ll beckon to you, whispering sweet nothings into your ear.  You must resist the temptation.

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While it’s still molten, sprinkle those bacon bits on top.

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Time to melt some chocolate, these are chocolate covered of course. The advantage to this is spoilage will be nil. The chocolate coating prevents mold spores from entering in whereas a plain bacon caramel might spoil after a few days because of the meat.  These were wrapped and sent out with our other Christmas goodies.

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Now a quick bit on tempering chocolate.  It’s not difficult, however there are important numbers you need to remember: 118, 80, and 88. The steps are simple: heat 75% of your chocolate to 118 F, cool to 80 F (anything below 84 really, but I prefer 80), and bring back up to 88 F for dipping. Done!  See that was easy 🙂

Infrared thermometers are key to helping with this process.  They’ve come down in price a lot over the last few years.  What used to cost over $100 now can be had for about $15.

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I used a fork to hold the caramel while dipping.  It also helps if you have molds like this below.

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I used these to make dulce caramels.  The molds are great because you brush on chocolate…let it cool…add caramel and cover with more chocolate and it looks very professional.

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Sprinkle some salt on top and call it a day. I used Sal do Mar, a Portuguese sea salt, on the dulce caramels and homemade hickory smoked salt on the bacon caramels.

Salted Bacon Caramels

14.5 oz white sugar
1/2 c water
1/2 c corn syrup
1/4 t cream of tartar
1 c whipping cream (not half and half), room temperature
1 t soy sauce
1/2 c (1 stick) butter, room temperature and cut into 8 pieces
8 strips bacon

In a heavy bottom, high walled saucepan, head sugar, corn syrup, water, and cream of tartar over high heat. Stir to dissolve, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Don’t worry if it’s boiling away.

Combine cream and soy and set aside. Uncover pot now and place thermometer in.  When it reaches 230 F, reduce heat to medium and cook until it reaches 300 F.  At this point swirl the pot.  Don’t stir it up with a spoon as that introduces oxygen into the mixture, just swirl the pot.

Continue cooking until it reaches 350 F, when it turns amber.  Swirl it off the heat, cool 2 minutes.

Add cream/soy mixing it well. Return to medium heat and add butter, stirring to melt. Cook until it reaches 255F, remove from the heat, and pour into a parchment lined pan. Place pan on rack and sprinkle bacon bits on top*. Cool 4 hours.

Cut into squares, wrap in parchment, and chill.  Or follow instructions below for covering in chocolate.

Chocolate Covering

24 oz bittersweet chocolate
a double boiler or saucepan + stainless bowl that fits inside.

Place water in your double boiler and heat on medium.  Separate chocolate into 18 oz and 6 oz portions. Place the 18 oz in bowl and top the saucepan. This needs to be a patient process.  Don’t increase heat to high, you’ll break the chocolate**.

Once it reaches 118 F quickly remove from pot and add in 6 oz chips.  Fold the chips in with a spatula continuously until it’s melted. The temperature should drop down to 80-84 F. Lower heat to low for the saucepan. Place bowl back on pot and monitor temperature closely as it rises to 88 F while stirring. Remove when ready and dip caramels, or brush into molds at this point. Keep the temperature 87-89 F for dipping.  If it falls below 87 just heat it up a bit again, but don’t heat it into the 90s.

*Alternately you can mix bacon in while it’s in the pot then pour into a pan.

**Breaking means it surpasses 118 F and the cocoa butter ratio is not in your favor.  If this occurs, just let it cool to solid form and restart.

Chocolate 101:

There are six forms of cocoa fat.  By forms I mean the structures they take at certain temperatures, not six different types of fat. Tempering helps us isolate which ones we want to solidify and which ones to stay molten. Forms 5 and 6 link together to create the smoothness and snapping texture tempered chocolate has.  Forms 1-4 are chalky and powdery when solid.

These fats don’t all melt at the same temperature either, making life more difficult. Forms 1-4 melt below 90 F and 5/6 melt around 94 F. If you keep the chocolate between these temps, the undesirable forms melt and the desirable ones solidify.  Normal body temperature is 95-98.6 F, which is why properly tempered chocolate melts in your mouth, not in your hand.

Bringing it up to 118 F melts everything. Cooling it down to 80-84 solidifies forms 1-4, then heating up to 88-89 makes sure forms 1-4 are melted but forms 5/6 are not since they melt above 90 F. In the graph below, we want dipping chocolate to be at stage 3, at the right. I prefer under 90 unlike this chart since that’s cutting it close to breaking temperature.

Capture

Scanned from Jeff Potter’s “Cooking for Geeks”

 

 

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