Archive for Don’t Try This at Home

Bacon Cookies

The idea hit me like a stroke of genius. If everything tastes better with bacon, surely dessert does too. A handful of them get it right, like Roni-Sue’s bacon buttercrunch. (Save yourself from Vosges’ bacon bar though.) But I wanted to try something new: “double” bacon cookies.

A couple years ago, The NY Times ran a recipe for bacon-dripping cookies, but there was no bacon in them. Other recipes have bacon bits, but they make no mention of drippings. Why oh why would you waste pork fat?

The draw of bacon cookies is the balance of sweet and salty, and I know of no other recipe that epitomizes the two like olive shortbread. I love them so much that I used them as a base for these experimental cookies. Of course I substituted the olives with crumbled bacon, and instead of butter, I used the drippings. After all that work, I expected to hit the jackpot. But my flash of genius was more like a flash in the pan. The cookies were nauseatingly rich. The texture was literally like sand; they wouldn’t hold together. Maybe I didn’t render enough fat (more on that later), or maybe you can’t make all-lard cookies. I think the bacon-and-lard idea is better suited for savory crackers. Not so avant-garde, I know.

Why did I even bother sharing this idea then? Because I kick myself when someone beats me to it. Like the time I made the crispiest pizza without a wood-fired oven or a pizza stone. A cast iron skillet did the trick. By the time I made it known, it was too late: Heston Blumenthal was credited with the idea. Never mind that I did it more than a year before he documented it in his book, In Search of Perfection. See what procrastination does?

Or sometimes I do start a popular idea, and it gets passed down so much that people forget the source. More than three years ago, I created a knock-off recipe for Nutella. One that had cocoa powder instead of melted chocolate, just like Nutella itself. At the time, I couldn’t find any such recipes on the Internet, so I shared it here. This Feb., the L.A. Times ran a similar recipe, citing the same book that I did. Heck, even the title was similar. “Nuts for Nutella” vs. “Nutty for Nutella.” Perhaps I’m paranoid, but in the past people have copied my recipe word for word and passed it off as their own.

Let this serve as a marker. If three months or three years from now, someone comes up with a great bacon shortbread recipe, perhaps a seed was planted here. For those who are wondering, here’s the recipe I used. I didn’t like it though. Sorry, no pictures, as I only had a pile of crumbs. These would probably be better with butter instead of drippings. Too lazy to try it again though.

P.S. – this dough is also good with seaweed or furikake.

Bacon Shortbread Cookies

Adapted from Susan Herrmann Loomis and The Traveler’s Lunchbox
Yield: about 34 cookies

1 to 1 1/2 lbs uncooked bacon, to yield 1/2 cup drippings and 1/2 cup bacon bits
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted or 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, whizzed in a food processor until fine
1 Tablespoon neutral-flavored oil (Don’t get smart and try olive oil, peanut oil, etc. Your tastebuds will go into shock)
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon salt

Cook the bacon. The cleanest, unfussiest way is to bake it at 400° F in a large foil-lined baking sheet for about 20 min. Turn the bacon over half way through cooking. Don’t put the bacon on racks. The little grates are a pain to clean. Also, don’t be like me and bake it at 200° F for 3 hours, no matter how good it sounds. The fat won’t render all the way.

Reserve 1/2 cup of bacon fat and let it cool to room temperature. Crumble 1/2 a cup of bacon, and save the rest. It keeps for a long time in the freezer.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or foil.

In a large bowl or the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the bacon fat until it is soft. Mix in the sugar until blended, then drizzle in the oil and mix until combined. Add the flour and the salt, and mix gently but thoroughly until the dough is smooth, then add the bacon bits and mix until they are thoroughly incorporated into the dough.

With your hands, press the dough into the pan until it is 1/4-inch thick. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours. Score the dough into rectangles with a knife.

Bake until the cookies are golden, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately cut the cookies while they are still hot. Cool on wire racks.

If you find that the middle pieces are still doughy, re-bake them in a preheated 300° F oven for about 10 minutes.

Comments (9)      Email Email      Print Print

Caramel surprise chocolate chip cookies

garlic brittle chococlate chip cookies

Before you think I’ve gone nuts for pairing chocolate with garlic again, I have an excuse. These cookies were a birthday present for my roommate, who loves garlic. She stores several cups of garlic in the fridge and even pre-minces it so it’s ready when the moment strikes.

Since my idea of a gift always involves sugar, I made garlic brittle chocolate chip cookies, inspired by the Gilded Fork. The garlic is pre-cooked and added to caramelized sugar, so it has a sweet, nutty flavor. If you’ve ever had roasted garlic, you know that garlic loses its bite after a long period of cooking.

Because I’m a sucker for new recipes, I made the cookie dough from a review copy of Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts. The first chapter is devoted to chocolate chip cookies. (The premise sounds better than it is. I hoped for a chocolate chip cookie primer, giving variations on chewy, cakey and crisp cookies, like Alton Brown did so well in Good Eats. Elizabeth’s chapter is a compilation of really different cookies, like traditional chocolate chip and chocolate-chocolate chip, without a thorough explanation.)

These cookies didn’t turn out, and it had nothing to do with the garlic (they didn’t taste nasty, but I don’t think the garlic was necessary). They were as thin as credit cards and extremely floppy. The dough didn’t seem to cook.

Lessons learned:

  • When adding hard candy to cookie dough batter, reduce the sugar in the dough accordingly. Elizabeth’s dough had 3/4 cup more sugar than the Gilded Fork recipe. Too much sugar prevents the dough from setting up. You’ll burn the sugar before the dough’s done.
  • Corn syrup creates a pliant, chewy cookie. I found this out because the brittle had a little corn syrup. Finally, the secret to chewy cookies is revealed!
  • For the deepest flavored brittle, cook the sugar just before it burns. My caramel never registered hot enough to reach the “hard crack” stage, so I kept cooking it. I only pulled it off the heat right when I smelled a little of it burning. Luckily, I got a smoky, molasses-flavored brittle.
  • Grey sea salt rocks. I used salt from Guérande in Brittany, France, which has a deep, almost smoky flavor. The large, irregular crystals melt on your tongue slowly, so the flavor pops. From now on, I’ll add it to all my cookie doughs. At $8 a pound it’s seems frou frou, but if you use it strategically, the canister lasts you a while.

garlic brittle

The idea of brittle in cookies is promising, but this recipe needs some work. Next time, I’ll use cacao nibs instead. No more garlic and chocolate for me. If you’re feeling adventurous, maybe diced fried bacon would go well in the brittle, too.

Garlic Brittle Chocolate Chip Cookies

Garlic Brittle Chocolate Chip Cookies


For Garlic Brittle:
8-10 garlic cloves, depending on size
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon fancy coarse salt, such as grey salt
For Cookies:
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 cups minus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1 batch garlic brittle


    Make Garlic Brittle:
  1. Blanch the garlic in boiling water for about 5 minutes. Drain, peel, and mince the garlic. Cool completely. (This step mellows the taste of raw garlic.)
  2. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat, parchment, or wax paper. In a large, heavy saucepan, combine the sugar and corn syrup over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Continue to boil until the mixture reaches 300° F (hard crack stage) on a candy thermometer and is dark golden brown.
  3. Immediately remove from the heat and add the butter and vanilla, stirring until the butter melts and is completely blended. Add the garlic, and stir to coat completely.
  4. Carefully pour the hot mixture onto the prepared baking sheets and spread evenly with a heatproof, rubber spatula. Sprinkle with salt. Cool completely, about 1 hour, and break into small chunks.
  5. Make Cookies:
  6. With an electric mixer, beat the butter with the granulated and brown sugars until just combined and sandy (do not whip). Mix in the egg until just combined, about 3 seconds. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt and mix until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and garlic brittle.
  7. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 min., preferably overnight.
  8. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat (do not attempt with greased foil, which makes the cookies spread, or wax paper unless you like the taste of crayons). Drop one-inch balls of dough a few inches apart. Bake until just golden around the edges, about 13-17 min. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back after 7 min. Transfer the cookie sheet to a rack to cool completely.


Brittle adapted from Gilded Fork; cookie dough adapted from Elizabeth Falkner’s Demolition Desserts

Comments (5)      Email Email      Print Print

Don’t try this at home: Desserts on ice

cilantro granita topped with blueberry sorbet

Don’t you hate it when cookbooks, magazines and blogs have lovely pictures of food that you can’t make at home? I assure you, not everything I make is pretty or delicious. I only reserve the best recipes for this blog, but now I’ll take you into my mishaps through this new column: Don’t try this at home. I won’t post the recipes in the recipe index because they’re so bad, but sometimes you can learn as much from your mistakes as your successes.

A while back, I received a free sample of True Blue blueberry juice. The name implied that it’s 100% pure blueberry juice. It was a great concept and tasted like real berries, but it was made from blueberry and grape juice concentrates, plus added sugar. It might as well been called “reconstituted blueberry-blended cocktail.” The selling point was also the antioxidants, but you have to drink two cups of juice (220 calories) to get the same amount of antioxidants as 1/2 cup of blueberries. No thanks. I’d rather eat a pint of blueberries for the same amount of calories and get the extra fiber. And if I’m thirsty, I’ll just drink water.

Hoping to rid myself of 32 pounds of juice (aren’t you proud that I carried it all to my door?), I boiled down several cups into a concentrated syrup. I wanted to see if it was possible to make sorbet only out of fruit juice. Since sorbets are 25-30% sugar by weight*, and the juice only had 12% sugar, I reduced it over several hours. Then I added a little lime juice to brighten up the flavors. After I froze everything, an unappetizing syrup leached out from the sorbet. It was a tell-tale sign that it had too much sugar. Either my calculations were wrong, or the liquid kept evaporating as it cooled. Also, the sorbet didn’t taste like blueberries anymore. It was astringent and drying, like grape juice. So no, you can’t make sorbet only out of fruit juice, for reasons that I’ll get into later.

While the sorbet sat in my freezer (who wants to eat sticky, fast-melting sorbet?), I made another frozen dessert from Florence Fabricant’s shiso granita recipe in the New York Times. I substituted one bunch of leftover cilantro, since it’s a close cousin of shiso. After I froze it, it looked as appetizing as wheatgrass juice. It tasted like Mexican salsa gone bad. Plus, it wasn’t sweet enough.

Here I had two desserts: one with too much sugar and one with too little. Voila, I combined them and made them semi-edible. I wouldn’t recommend that you do the same though.

Lessons learned:

  • Don’t put cilantro in dessert. Ever.
  • Don’t boil fruit juice for long periods of time. The delicate flavors will disappear, while the less desirable ones will get stronger.
  • If you want to make sorbet out of fruit juice, you need to add sugar rather than boil it to death.
  • Liquids evaporate as they cool. If you measure one cup of hot liquid and think, “Perfect! That’s the right amount!” you’ll have considerably less when you actually use it.

*Source: San Francisco Chronicle

Comments (3)      Email Email      Print Print