There was some talk a few months ago about Vosges’ new bacon-flavoured chocolate bar. When I first heard about it, I immediately started imagining the smoky saltiness of good bacon buried in smooth, rich chocolate. I went on chocolate-search alert. Unfortunately for me, I saw neither rind nor rasher of it. But I kept imagining those flavours. Last month, when I was contemplating–again–how much I love my ice cream maker, it suddenly hit me! If bacon works in a chocolate bar, why can’t it work in ice cream? I wrote the idea down, which is why for weeks, visitors have been puzzled by the note on our fridge that reads “Bacon-Choco Ice Cream.”
In my imaginings I always pictured dark chocolate, so when I started recipe planning, it was with something much darker than the milk chocolate Vosges uses. Our base recipe comes from Kate Zuckerman’s incredible cookbook “The Sweet Life.” (go. buy it. you won’t regret it.) In her recipe for dark chocolate sorbet, Zuckerman explains how the starches in chocolate absorb water at certain levels of heat, becoming incredibly creamy. I figured this was the way to go, as I couldn’t quite imagine the bacon bits nestled into a custard base. Maybe I’m wrong about this. Next go-round, anyone?
So. We had the concept of the base down. The bacon was next. I decided to candy the bacon so that it wouldn’t clash with the chocolate. I dipped the bacon in sugar and baked it until it was crispy. Then I mixed it into the incredibly rich, creamy, delicious chocolate sorbet. Quick note–this sorbet is an absolute must-try, bacon or no bacon. In her intro to the recipe, Zuckerman says that people are always shocked that the sorbet has no dairy. There’s a reason for this. Go look at the picture at the beginning of this piece again. Ignore our sub-professional photo skills and instead look at the sheen. It’s a thousand times silkier in the mouth than it even shows in the photo.
The chocolate sorbet with the bacon mixed in, however, is a whole different experience. Because the bits are mixed in after the sorbet, they don’t change the initial flavour or or silkiness at all. However, once your mouthful of chocolate has melted a bit, you get a little bacony, salty crunch. We liked how the salt cut through the heaviness of the chocolate, and how the smoky bacon flavour melted into the last vestiges of the rich chocolate at the end of every bite.
-Make sure your bacon is diced small. I was a bit lazy and left some larger bits (like 1/4 inch), and those few interfered with rather than complimented the chocolate.
-The candied bacon was beautiful coming out of the oven, but in hindsight we weren’t sure we needed to candy it. Maybe it was a cowardly move? You tell me. Next time, I might try just frying it up nice and crisp and mixing it in without the sugar protection.
– This is obviously not going to work with just any bacon. We got our smoked bacon from Porcmeilleur, at the Jean-Talon Market, but there are a few places around Montreal that might be worth trying. I think maple-smoked bacon would be delicious in this.
-If you don’t own an ice cream maker, I discovered that the base for this sorbet thickens into a beautiful silky puddingy mass in the fridge. So you can still play along. After you’ve prepared the sorbet base, ladle it into individual serving bowls and place them in the fridge. In a few hours, they will be thickened to a pudding consistency. Then, if you want to get in on the bacon, you could sprinkle the candied bacon on top.
-Use the best cocoa powder you can justify, as it is really the flavour base for this sorbet. Carlo went all crazy and insisted on Valhrona cocoa powder. It was <ahem> $13 for 250 grams, but WOW is it amazing.
DARK CHOCOLATE BACON CRUNCH SORBET
for the sorbet, adapted from The Sweet Life by Kate Zuckerman
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp. sugar
2 1/4 cups water
3 tbsp. corn syrup
6 oz. dark chocolate (we used two Valhrona chocolate bars, one 55% and the other 66%)
1 cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
for the bacon
app. 8 slices of bacon (more or less depending on the meatiness of your bacon)
1/2 cup white sugar
Chop the chocolate into small pieces and combine it with the cocoa, which you have sifted into a medium stainless steel bowl.
On the stovetep, combine 2 1/4 cups water, sugar and corn syrup. Bring the mixture to a boil and then remove it from the heat.
Whisk 1/3 of the sugar syrup into the waiting bowl of chocolate. The chocolate will make you nervous at first, as it seizes a little. Add another 1/3 of the syrup, whisking all the time. By the time you add your last 1/3 of sugar syrup, the mixture should be smooth and silky. Continue whisking this mixture for about five minutes, until you think it’s smooth and silky. If you notice any chunks of cocoa in your sorbet base, you can pass it through a fine-mesh strainer. Cool the mixture over an ice bath (fill a bowl larger than the one your base is in with ice cubes and water. Place your bowl inside the icy bowl, and continue to whisk it until it is cool). Place your base in the refrigerator to cool completely and thicken. Zuckerman recommends at least four hours.
While your sorbet base is cooling, prepare your bacon. First, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Next, coat your bacon slices with sugar. I did this by pouring a small amount of sugar onto a plate and then pressing the bacon into it. Next time, I might try just sprinkling it over the bacon, like this method. Place the bacon on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet and bake it for 8 minutes. After 8 minutes, remove it from the oven, and turn it over, baking it for another 8 minutes. Keep a close eye on it, because it burns fast. When the bacon is done, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool before dicing it into small pieces. You should have about 1/2 cup of bacon bits to add to your sorbet. If you have any extra, reserve it for garnish.
After the sorbet base has cooled for a few hours, freeze it in your ice cream maching according to manufacturer’s instructions. It is done when it has gained volume and it holds the marks of the stirring mechanism, like stiffly-whipped cream. Now you have to work quickly. Remove the sorbet from your machine to a storage container, quickly stirring in your bacon bits in batches as you fill the container. Store your sorbet in the freezer for a couple hours to harden it. Or, if you’re like us, just ignore the last instructions and eat super-soft sorbet.
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