Bacon Jam

I know, I know. The combination of these two words just blew your mind. After you’ve picked up the pieces of your cranium, please, take a deep breath and read the rest of IMG_20130106_141048this post.

Bacon and jam are usually separate parts of a delicious breakfast. But I have found a way to marry them together in a deliciously amazing concoction. However, I can’t take full credit for it. The internet is full of people posting recipes for bacon jam, and they vary widely. I studied many of them before coming up with my own. This is encouraging because it means that this recipe is flexible. If you don’t have *just* the right ingredient or amount of something, it doesn’t necessarily mean you can’t have your own delicious bacon jam.  It will just be a slightly different version.

Now let me abate your worries. This is not a jammy-sweet, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth kind of food. It is bacon in a somewhat sweet, somewhat savory mixture that loosely resembles the consistency of jam. It is really more like bacon chutney. I recently made this for a BLT appetizer where I spread some on crostini with arugula and tomato a la Spoon Fork Bacon. It was a big hit! But then, people started using it in different, creative ways, like on top of scrambled eggs. Delish! So let your little bacon-obsessed brain get creative with this surprising little dish.

Bacon Jam – A Delectable Endeavors original

1/2 lb bacon, cut into small pieces (I use Trader Joe’s Classic, sliced dry rubbed)

1 Tablespoon bacon fat

1 Tablespoon butter

1 large shallot, minced

6 ounces of your favorite dark beer, scotch ales and stouts work best (I used Tyranena’s Sheep Shagger Scotch Ale)

1 Tablespoon maple syrup

1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup strongly brewed coffee (do not used flavored coffee)

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Cook bacon in a large pan on medium heat. Render the fat completely so that bacon is nice and crispy. Remove bacon from pan using a spatula, so you can save the bacon fat in the pan. Place cooked bacon on a paper towel to drain.

Drain all but 1 Tablespoon of bacon fat from the pan. Add 1 Tablespoon of butter to Tablespoon of reserved fat in the pan. Add chopped shallot and cook until translucent (this should only take a couple of minutes). Add beer, maple syrup, vinegar, and coffee to pan and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, add bacon bits and thyme and mix.

Let this mixture simmer lightly for approximately 30 minutes, or until it reaches desired jam-like consistency. Like I said, this recipe is flexible, so if it gets too thick, feel free to add a little coffee or beer. If if is too loose, let it simmer a little longer.

Once cooked, let cool before putting into your favorite jar. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week (if you don’t eat it all before then). Canning will keep the jam for longer.

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Brunch Series – Pumpkin Oatmeal Pancakes

These are so delicious and easy, I’d be crazy NOT to post them. I have quite the affinity for fall food. Squash, and dark greens, apples and blood oranges. If I had to choose one season to always eat in, Nay, live in, I would choose fall.  That is why my husband I and I chose to get married in the fall – because we love it so much. I feel a special kind of happiness when a chill hits the air and the trees start to turn, and these pancakes are the perfect companion for a brisk autumn Sunday.

Even though you have to process your oats to make these pancakes, it is a small effort that makes it totally worth it. These pancakes are surprisingly fluffy and delicious. My husband, especially loved their sweet, creamy pumpkin flavor, coupled with the airy texture. With just a little bit of butter and a light drizzle of maple syrup, they are all the things I love about fall bundled into a delicious little concoction.  I highly recommend.

Adapted from Running to the Kitchen

1 1/3 cups of quick oats

2 eggs

1/2 cup pumpkin puree

1 cup of almond milk (although, I’m sure cow’s milk would work as well)

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1/4 tsp mace (optional)

2 Tablespoons brown sugar

pinch of salt

Heat a large griddle or pan.  In a food processor, grind oats into a fine meal, nearly flour consistency.  Add all ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine.  Grease griddle and pour mixture into small circles.  Cook until edges begin to bubble, then flip.  Cook the other side completely.  Enjoy warm.

Homemade Oreos

Slightly belated for Valentine’s day, I wanted to share with all of you the most wonderful recipe that no one can resist.  Homemade Oreos.

This recipe has been in the back of my mind for a while.  It has made the rounds of food blogs, and it seems everyone is making them now.  I can tell you why now.

These. Are. Amazing.  And dare I say . . . BETTER than actual Oreos. *gasp*  I know.  Why better?  Because, they have a nice homemade crunch without all the crazy unintelligible chemical ingredients.  Soy lecithin?  What?  Why do I need that in my cookie?

Plus, they are much easier to make than I anticipated.  I know I say that a lot in this blog, but part of the reason I stared at this recipe for about a year and a half is that I kept thinking about all the work involved in making a homemade sandwich cookie.  First you have to make the cookie.  Then you have to concoct some sort of filling.  I mean, its double the dishes.  And I’m not one for a ton of work.

There are two steps to this cookie.  I made them on two different days, which was totally fine and helps save on clean up.  I got a little nervous when the cookies were in the oven, thinking they looked a little too fluffy when cooking.  But sure enough, they deflated and turned into the perfect little wafer right before I took them out of the oven. I was concerned about the (very) short time frame between cookies-too-soft-they-fall-apart and burnt with these types of wafers, but the time frame in the recipe is spot on.

The chocolate wafers are a deep, chocolaty flavor with just a hint of sweetness.  The filling nicely compliments the wafers with a sweet vanilla creaminess.  Mmmm.  This might be my new favorite cookie.

A couple of recipe notes.  I always use unsalted butter.  You can always add salt to a dish, but you can’t take it out.  I don’t like to over-salt my food.  Also, the original recipe called for 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar for the wafers.  I split the difference and used 1 1/4 cups, which I thought was perfect.

From Smitten Kitchen

Cookie wafers

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) room-temperature
1 large egg

Filling

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) room-temperature
1/4 cup vegetable shortening
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Preheat oven to 375°F.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the flour, cocoa, baking soda and powder, salt, and sugar. On low speed, add the butter, and then the egg until a dough forms and mixture begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl.

With moistened hands, form 1 inch balls and place approximately two inches apart on parchment then, slightly flatten the dough. Bake for 9 minutes, rotating once for even baking. Set baking sheets on a rack to cool.

To make the filling, place butter and shortening in a mixing bowl, and at low speed, gradually beat in the sugar and vanilla. Turn the mixer on high and beat for 2 to 3 minutes until filling is light and fluffy.

To assemble the cookies, spoon or pipe teaspoon-size blobs of cream into the center of one cookie. Place another cookie, equal in size to the first, on top of the cream. Lightly press, to work the filling evenly to the outsides of the cookie. I don’t have a pastry bag, so I do this by filling a plastic zip bag and cutting off the corner.

Brunch Series – Dutch Baby

I can’t help but giggle a little every time I hear the name “dutch baby”. 

It’s a rather funny name for a pancake.  The dutch baby is one of my husband’s favorite breakfasts.  He likes ordering it at pancake houses and then cracking a joke about how it is the best way to eat an infant, or some other joke of questionable taste.

Dutch babies look like you took a large, oversized pancake that deflated and flopped back on top of itself.  Because, essentially, that is what a dutch baby is – a type of  German pancake.  In fact, the word dutch stands for “Deutsch” or German, kind of like the Pennsylvania dutch.  These are the fun facts you learn when you marry someone who is German and has an affinity for pancakes.  And a dutch baby is De-licious and somewhat reminiscent of an eggy popover.  It has a crispy crust and custardy, but light center.  I prefer them served with freshly squeezed lemon and  copious amounts of powdered sugar.

This was my first try at a dutch baby, and I have to say, it turned out great!  I was a little concerned because they seem so large and intimidating at The Pancake House.  It turns out, there is very little to be afraid of.  In fact, this might be one of the simplest, quickest brunches EVER.  There, I said it.  Now try it out for yourself.

Foodiecrush has a great Dutch Baby recipe and little graph that explains how to make it with great ease.  I am not even going to attempt to recreate their explanation, as it is seamless.  Check out the website!

Grapefruit Curd

I’ve been doing quite a bit of baking lately (with pictures to come!).  After baking many items that required copious amounts of egg whites, I began to acquire quite the store of egg yolks.

Whats a girl to do with so many yolks?  As it turns out, after some googling, I found out the perfect thing to do is make curd!

Curd is an amazing food.  It has a soft jelly-like consistency and manages to be both sweet and sour at the same time.  You can even spread it on scones!  What a wonderful invention.  Now, I’ve spent years coveting the traditional lemon curds you find in grocery stores, often covered in a thin layer of dust in the British isle, or something obscure like that.  I am not sure why some people consider curd only acceptable for elderly woman at tea time.  But you can put it on ice cream, with oatmeal, in yogurt, and in macarons!  (soon to be made)  Curd is delicate and delightful and if you have not tried it, you certainly need to.

As it turns out, curd is actually incredibly easy to make.  I would highly recommend giving it a try if you have some aging fruit and older eggs. I had the perfect companion to the abandoned yolks, an aging grapefruit.  So in quite a complementary way, my soon-to-be discarded scraps became delicious grapefruit curd.  I love it when cooking turns out that way.

From Good Life Eats

1/2 cup grapefruit juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon grapefruit zest
1 – 1 1/2 cups sugar
8 egg yolks
10 tablespoons butter, sliced into tablespoons

In a saucepan, combine first 4 ingredients.  Heat over medium heat until the sugar mixture reaches a simmer.  Make sure all the sugar is dissolved, then turn heat down to low.

Whisk egg yolks until smooth.  Pour approximately half of the warm dissolved sugar mixture into the bowl with whisked egg yolks. Vigorously whisk together until combined.  Then, pour the combined egg and sugar mixture back into the saucepan with the remaining sugar and juice mix.

Continue to cook over low heat while whisking until mixture thickens and coats the back of a spoon, which should take about 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the butter 1 tablespoon at a time.

Cool to room temperature then store refrigerated in an airtight container for about a week.

Brunch Series – Vanilla Pear Muffins

This is how my morning started.  Red pears and coffee, yum.  I began my day by peeling pears for this delicious recipe, which is actually quite a delightful, relaxing way to start the morning.   Now that the husband and I have some free weekend time, I wanted to wake up and make him a big, delicious brunch. This was the weekend was the weekend for that.

I found a recipe for vanilla pear muffins that I wanted to make for some aging pears I had on hand.  Unfortunately, the recipe wasn’t *exactly* what I had hoped for, because they called for applesauce and had no actual pear in them.  I changed the recipe slightly to add more of a pear punch by switching the applesauce to ground up pears.  I peeled and cored 2 of my own pears and chopped them up in the food processor, which worked great, because there were some little bits of pear that didn’t get pulverized which cooked wonderfully in the muffins.  However, if you don’t want to make your own, it is pretty easy to get pear sauce now.

These muffins are not your normal muffins; they are incredibly moist and fragrant.  In fact, my husband asked if I was making cookies while they were baking, they smelled so good. 😉  The vanilla and pear delicately balance each other and the granola topping adds a nice crunch.

Adapted from The Pastry Affair

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
Pinch of salt
2 large eggs
1 1/2 Tablespoons (that’s correct, Tablespoons) vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 cup packed light brown sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 cup pear sauce or approximately 2 pears, ground in a food processor
granola, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, nutmeg, and salt).

In another bowl, mix together the eggs, vanilla, zest, brown sugar, butter, oil, and pear sauce until well combined. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry until just combined. Do not worry about lumps; it is ok to have some in a muffin mix. Distribute the muffin batter evenly between 12 baking cups. Sprinkle granola on top of muffins, if desired.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffin tops are lightly browned and bounce back to the touch. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Happy New Year with Gingerbread Dreams

Happy New Year!  2011 brought a LOT of changes for me.  I graduated with my doctorate, got married, got my first real job, and moved to a different state.  It certainly was a busy one for me.  With all that change, the blog got a little neglected, but I’m back with a lot of fun new kitchen gadgets and an arsenal of recipes, so watch out!

Wisconsin has not yet realized it is winter, so we have no standing snow and I haven’t even my pulled out my snow boots.  What is January without snow?  Saying that, I’m not complaining that it hasn’t been below freezing every day, but as a Midwesterner, I get a little suspicious when I can’t see the white stuff at the start of winter.

One thing that always makes me think of winter is gingerbread.  I revel in the earthy, slightly sweet and complex flavor.  I embrace the warm, spicy smell of it baking in the oven.  You can almost close your eyes and feel the snow softly falling outside while it bakes.  

Gingerbread has a wonderful history.  I’m sure most readers are familiar with gingerbread cookies, which are little cut out men that are often thin and crispy.  This is not the only type of gingerbread, rather this is a type of gingerbread cookie.  The other kind of gingerbread is a cakey, quick bread, more like a brownie than a cookie.  It originates from Europe, most notably central Europe in countries like Germany and France via Armenian monks.  Today, in these European countries, gingerbread is enjoyed in cookie form for gingerbread houses or large cookies worn as necklaces and in cake/bread form as squares or round shapes similar to muffin tops.  These are often lightly iced with vanilla or chocolate, and they are fantastic.  I have had the privilege of enjoying true German gingerbread, and there really is nothing like it.  But this comes close.  🙂

From Lick My Spoon

Black, Sticky Gingerbread

You can bake this in two 9×5 bread pans to make a loaf or you can cook it in a 9×9 pan for something more similar to a cake or brownie.

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup water

3/4 cup unsulphured molasses

3/4 cup of quality honey

1 cup tightly packed dark brown sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp ground ginger

2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp mace or nutmeg

1/8 tsp ground clove

3 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup milk

1 Tbl packed, grated ginger

Preheat the oven to 325 F. Lightly grease baking pan and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper that has been cut to hang over two opposite edges by a couple of inches.

Combine the butter, water, molasses, honey and brown sugar in a medium non-reactive saucepan and place over low heat.  The most common non-reactive is stainless steel or glass.  Stir the mixture frequently until the butter is melted, and all of the ingredients are well blended. Remove from the heat, pour into a large bowl and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, sift together the flour, baking soda, salt, ginger, cinnamon, all-spice and cloves, and set aside. When the molasses mixture feels just warm to the touch, add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the milk and stir to combine. Fold the dry ingredients into the batter in four additions, using big, long strokes. Don’t be concerned if you can’t get all the lumps out.  Stir in the grated ginger.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the center of the oven for 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours for a full pan, around 1 hour for bread pan, or until the top of the cake springs back when touched and a cake tester inserted into the centre comes out clean. Allow to cool for 15 minutes, then, using the overhang of parchment, lift the cake out of the pan and cool completely before cutting.