These ingredients cannot be more complementary. They are delicious on their own and they work great together in a dessert. This dish has been in the works (i:e I first thought about it) about a year ago in Jacksonville, FL. I was working on a project there and a friend of mine mentioned he had some great candied bacon at a Superbowl party. While we were having some beers at a favorite restaurant we started brainstorming ideas as to what can be done with it other than eating it as a snack. One idea that stuck was to use it as an ingredient for a crust that would coat ice cream and then the whole thing can be deep fried. Well, that sounded good after a few beers anyways. Fast forward a few months and the final “Candied Bacon Ice Cream” dessert changed dramatically. It’s neat, refined and very delicious.
I decided on some kind of apple ice cream early on and also knew it would be shaped into a cylinder form. That will be coated with panko crumbs, corn flakes and lots of candied bacon bits. At first I was not sure how to fry the whole thing without messing up the ice cream with oil or melting it. If you search for fried ice cream on the web you’ll find a lot of recipes, but most of them make a bulky ball of ice cream, roll it in a lot of cereal and fry it quickly so that it will not melt. I did not like that and thought briefly about maybe mixing Gellan into the ice cream base and hope it will help it keep its shape. That seemed too much of a hassle and not guaranteed to work unless I completely seal the ice cream tubes so that they will not touch the oil. Besides, Gellan does not play too nicely with milk/cream due to the presence of calcium in dairy products. In the end, the simplest solution was the best. I did not need to fry the “breaded” ice cream cylinders, all I needed was to fry the panko crumbs just like I did for the Beef Royal dish from the Fat Duck. Then the ice cream can be coated with the mixture of bacon, panko and crumbled corn flakes right before it is served. That worked like a charm.
The candied apple ice cream recipe is from The French Laundry cookbook. It’s flavor base is reduced fresh apple juice. Reducing the apple juice gives the ice cream sharper apple flavor and a sweetness reminiscent of candied apples. After churning, some of the ice cream was piped into acetate-lined cannoli molds to make the cylinders. Right before serving, I coated the ice cream with apple caramel (more apple juice further reduced to a thick sticky glaze) and then rolled them in a mixture of candied bacon bits, butter-fried panko crumbs and crumbled corn flakes. To candy the bacon, I baked homemade bacon slices with a teaspoon of brown sugar on each one until all the fat was rendered and the bacon was deep mahogany brown. The cooled bacon slices were coated in a flavorful glass-like brown sugar candy crust. I chopped several of them finely and ate the rest for a snack.
The coffee ganache was the second component I made and it is a simple dark chocolate ganache with strong coffee replacing most of the cream. I wanted it to be pliable enough to pipe from a squeeze bottle and not run all over the plate. That worked well after the ganache came to room temperature from the fridge. The brown butter component was from a recipe from eatfoo and is done with a mixture of brown butter and N-Zorbit Tapioca Maltodextrin to make pebbles or small rocks that dissolve in the mouth. The butter rocks had no sugar in them and worked as a rich but not sweet addition to the plate. I debated adding a touch of sugar to them, but I am glad I did not. They worked well with the rest of the textures and as a good counter point to the sweet ice cream, ganache and maple caviar.
I’ve seen the technique to make “caviar” or “pearls” out of almost anything on Michael Laiskonis’ blog. The idea is to make a solution with a gelling agent in it like gelatin or, in this case, Agar Agar. Then droplets of the mixture are dropped into a tall container of ice-cold vegetable oil (I put it in the freezer for an hour before using it). That causes these drops to immediatly gel and to naturally form small pearls. When the droplets are fully gelled they can be strained and rinsed off with water. The oil is perfectly clean and can be returned to its container to be used for cooking. It’s pretty neat. I made my caviar with maple syrup. The end product looks cool, has a very interesting popping texture and of course tastes of pure maple.
The apple chips are another Keller recipe, from “Under Pressure“. They are easy to make but need some care and time. The paper-thin slices are poached in a simple syrup that is barely bubbling for a long time. They are then drained, dried and dehydrated in a low oven until crisp. These, just like the bacon, make for great crispy flavorful snacks.