It's not just for breakfast anymore: Rich, savory bacon enhances chocolate chip cookies, cakes and other sweets. And why make ordinary fudge for the holidays? Make it extraordinary — with peanut butter and, of course, maple-smoked bacon.
Bacon Gets Its Just Desserts
Susan Russo for NPR
Mmmm. Smell that? It's the scent of bacon mania. There are bacon blogs, bacon cookbooks, bacon-scented air fresheners, bacon tweets and a book entitled Bacon, A Love Story. "Bacon Butties" has more than 500,000 fans on Facebook. "Bacon mania" even has its own Wikipedia entry.
Bacon has wound its way into desserts. It is now vogue to match savory bacon with sweet dishes. There are bacon cookies, brownies and cupcakes; bacon cakes, pies and bread pudding; bacon ice cream, milkshakes and truffles; bacon chocolate bars, jellybeans and, yes, bacon baklava.
One of the instigators of the bacon dessert craze was chef and molecular gastronomist Heston Blumenthal of Britain's Michelin-starred Fat Duck restaurant. As early as 2004, Blumenthal astonished diners with his sweet and savory bacon-and-egg ice cream. News about the intriguingly odd confection quickly spread through the food world.
In New York and Los Angeles, chefs began offering couture bacon desserts with couture prices. Bacon desserts were featured at food-centric events such as the annual Fancy Food Show. In the 2006 season of Top Chef, two contestants created bacon ice cream. For many Americans, this was their introduction to bacon desserts, and they were hungry for more.
While some people become giddy at the idea of bacon chocolate chip cookies and maple-bacon cupcakes, others think bacon should stay in its rightful place: on the breakfast table next to scrambled eggs and toast.
If you're in the latter category, consider this: Marrying bacon with sweets such as chocolate, caramel and ice cream is a logical flavor pairing. Combining sweet and salty flavors has always been delicious. Paired sweet and salty flavors is why we love kettle corn, chocolate-covered pretzels and Snickers bars.
From that perspective, chocolate-covered bacon and bacon cupcakes suddenly seem, well, right. Bacon adds complexity to desserts and candies. Take ordinary chocolate brownies, for example. When made with bacon, the salty, fatty meat enhances the sweetness and intensifies the brownie's rich chocolate flavor. The subtle, smoky saltiness adds a novel yet pleasant depth of flavor to the familiar dessert.
While some food trends fall as quickly as a souffle, bacon desserts appear likely to be around for a while. They may just become your signature dessert for the new year.