First up: Buttermilk Bacon Pralines.
They're enticing served with pre-dinner cocktails. They'll provide a wonderful sweet-salty contrast served alongside a savory spinach salad. Or how about treating your guests to a knock-out two-bite dessert by pairing these unusual pralines with a steaming hot cup of black coffee?
The Buttermilk Bacon Praline recipe is from one of my very favorite cookbooks "Screen Doors & Sweet Tea: Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook" by Martha Hall Foose. It's a highly entertaining book, full of fun characters and great story-telling. The fact that it's chock-full of gorgeous food photos and crowd-pleasing recipes? Icing on the cake!
Buttermilk Bacon Pralines
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 1 tablespoon light corn syrup
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 cup chopped pecans
- 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
- 4 slices bacon, cooked crisp and crumbled
1. In a heavy deep saucepan, combine the sugars, the buttermil, corn syrup, baking soda and salt. Cook slowly over medium heat for about 20 minutes, until the mixture reaches 235 on a candy thermometer.
2. Remove from heat and add butter, vanilla, pecans, orange zest and bacon and beat with a wooden spoon until creamy. Be very careful - this stuff is HOT.
3. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a silicone mat or buttered parchment paper. Let stand for 30 minutes or until cool and firm.
As if Ms. Foose's pralines weren't enough, here's another way to enjoy bacon, home-cured or not.
Rustic Bacon Bread
This hearty bacon-studded bread was inspired by the fabulous cookbook "My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead Method", by Jim Lahey, owner of Sullivan St. Bakery in NYC.
The difference is, Mr Lahey's loaf is called "Pancetta Bread" because he uses - you guessed it - pancetta instead of bacon. His Pancetta Bread recipe offers a variation for making Pancetta Rolls as well. Brilliant.
Makes 10 pancetta rolls
- 300 grams, or about 2 1/3 cups, pancetta, sliced 1/4-inch thick (by the deli) and cut into 1/4-inch dice, or slab bacon, diced
- 3 cups, or 400 grams, bread flour
- 1/2 teaspoon, or 3 grams, kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon, or 1 gram, instant or other active dry yeast
- 1/4 teaspoon or to taste, or 1/2 gram, hot red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups, or 350 grams, cool (55 to 65 degrees F) water
- wheat bran, cornmeal, or additional flour for dusting
1. Cook the pancetta or bacon in a heavy skillet over medium heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and golden, about 10 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon of the fat. Drain the pancetta on paper towels and let cool.
2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, pancetta, salt, yeast, and red pepper flakes, if you’re using them. Add the water and reserved rendered fat, and using a wooden spoon or your hand, mix until you have a wet, sticky dough, about 30 seconds. Cover the bowl and let sit at room temperature until the surface is dotted with bubbles and the dough is more than doubled in size, 12 to 18 hours.
3. When the first rise is complete, generously dust a work surface with flour. Use a bowl scraper or rubber spatula to scrape the dough out of the bowl in one piece. Using lightly floured hands or a bowl scraper or spatula, life the edges of the dough in toward the center. Nudge and tuck in the edges of the dough to make it round.
4. Place a tea towel on your work surface and generously dust it with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Gently place the dough on the towel, seam side down. If the dough is tacky, dust the top lightly with wheat bran, cornmeal, or flour. Fold the ends of the tea towel loosely over the dough to cover it and place it in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours. The dough is ready when it is almost doubled. If you gentle poke it with your finger, it should hold the impression. If it springs back, let it rise for another 15 minutes.
5. Half an hour before the end of the second rise, preheat the oven to 475 degrees F, with a rack in the lower third. Oil a baking pan. Transfer the dough onto a generously floured work surface. Cut the dough mound into two strips and break each strip into five equal pieces. Each piece should weigh 80 grams. Round each piece into a roll-shaped ball. Place the balls on the pan in even rows. Bake for about 40 minutes, until the rolls are dark brown. Place them on a rack and allow them to cool thoroughly.
By the way, this Bacon Bread is perfect for making BLTs.
Just add mayo, L and T.
*Please don't fret if you don't have home-cured bacon in your fridge right now. These recipes work just as well with other bacon, but they might not be as amazing since they won't have the "homemade-with-love" component.