Including my recipe, there were four bacon ice creams at the contest. The other three suffered from varying degrees of two problems. First, the bacon pieces were too big. As one of the other contestants mentioned to me, cold fat is horrible to eat. Bacon pieces need to be really small or else you end up with this chewy piece of frozen bacon flavored gum. Blech. The second problem was the saltiness. Sure, the sweet salty combination is a classic in desserts. Who doesn't love salted caramel or a chocolate covered pretzel? But still, ice cream is really a sweet treat first. It is possible for ice cream to take on a more savory approach, such as my Cilantro Lime Ice Cream, but this is really the exception rather than the rule. The other bacon ice creams at the contest were desserts but much too salty. You should end with a pleasant, sweet flavor on your tongue, not one of overpowering saltiness. And this is why my ice cream was so successful.
In my recipe, the bacon's smokiness comes through with just a hint of the saltiness. I do this in two ways. First, candy the bacon to make it sweeter. Baking in the oven with the brown sugar lacquers the bacon with a dark, sweet coating that makes it more complimentary to the ice cream by masking the saltiness without affecting the smoky flavor. Second, cutting the bacon into tiny, bacon bit sized pieces. As I mentioned earlier, frozen fat is not crowd pleaser. The small pieces make it much more palatable.
I really feel that this maple bacon ice cream is the best flavor I have made. If you are a bacon lover, than you are already on board with this. If you are not, than you don't know what you are missing, but this flavor is still worth eating. Everyone who ate this one raved about it. It really tastes like frozen breakfast.
Mrs. Fellow thought the reason I came in second and not first was the meat. Some people are squeamish about bacon in ice cream. If that is the case, or if you are a vegetarian, omit the bacon and you will still have the best maple ice cream you have ever tasted.
The key to success is the maple syrup which must be pure. You don't want anything with added corn syrup or artificial flavors because it has to be reduced until it is practically sugar. I reduced the maple syrup to remove almost all of the liquid. What you are left with is a difficult to handle slag of maple sugar. This very important step concentrates the maple flavor so don't cheat by not cooking it down all the way. The less water, the more concentrated the flavor. In fact, the cooking process can even caramelize the maple syrup a bit and give it almost a coffee-like flavor accent. Maple syrup is tricky to work with, it wants to boil up and bubble over. I used a 5 quart stock pot to reduce this recipe. If it cools too much before you add it to the milk and cream, you two options push through it with a strong spoon because it will reincorporate into the milk when it gets warm again, or microwave it VERY BRIEFLY to make it mostly a liquid again.
Making the bacon is easy, I used Dave Lebovitz's recipe. I won't post it, so follow the link if you need it (don't worry, it has new window poppy goodness so you won't lose your page here). The important thing is that you use regular cut bacon and not thick cut. This helps keep it crispy. I used the center cut stuff with more meat and lower fat. Also, make sure the bacon is cut and completely cool before adding it to the ice cream.
So, without further ado, here is one of the best ice creams you will ever make and eat. This stuff rocks. You owe it to yourself to work through weirdness and try it. Trust me, you won't be disappointed.
Maple Ice Cream with Bacon
1.5 cups of the best maple syrup you can afford
6 egg yolks
1/4 teaspoon salt
2.5 cups of cream
1.75 cups of milk
At least six strips of caramelized bacon, cut into bacon bit sized pieces.
- Cook the maple syrup down to 1/2 its volume about 3/4 of a cup. This stuff tends to boil over so take it slow and low. Check it frequently and do your best to keep it away from a full boil.
- In a medium saucepan, combine milk, cream, and syrup reduction. Stir to dissolve the maple syrup reduction. Bring to a bare simmer. Depending on the temperature when it is added, you may find that the syrup reduction solidifies. Do not fear. When you get above 160 degrees F, it will easily mix into the liquid.
- While the milk and cream are heating, mix the yolks with the salt. Beat well.
- Temper the eggs with the dairy mixture by slowly adding about 1/3 of the liquid(in two or three additions). Remember to whisk constantly during the tempering process. Add the eggs mixture to the remaining milk mixture. Stir constantly until the the temperature reaches 175F.
- Cool to room temperature overnight. Freeze in your ice cream machine and add the caramelized bacon at the last minute or so of freezing.