For a family gathering I decided to take a page out of the pork obsessive trend that has overtaken many-a restaurant in Toronto. I mean, even Lady Gaga is on board… with her ‘haute-couture’ meat dress. So what better way to pair some chewy chocolate brownies than with some smoky bacon brittle?! I chose ‘the chewy’ because fudge brownies would be too overwhelming for the taste buds in my extended family who prefer lighter treats. For the brittle, I used my own recipe, and for the brownies, I decided to try Cook’s Illustrated (from their March 2010 issue) version that uses a combination of vegetable oil and butter in the mix. According to CI, the combination of both fats (saturated and unsaturated), and in the proper ratios, is necessary to help create that chewy texture. To me, they have a milder chocolate taste (especially if you omit the chocolate chunks it calls for, as I sometimes do), a soft interior, and a delightful chew to them. I also adore the crackly, wafer thin crust that forms atop of the brownies. They are also not overwhelmingly sweet. Next time I may add some chopped, toasted pecans or walnuts to the mixture simply because I like the flavour and crunch they add to the brownie. One more thing, your patience will be tested on these brownies. It’s not the baking but the two cooling times this recipe calls for. They have to be cooled first in their pan and out the second time. This is necessary to ensure that the brownies set up so you get that desired chewy texture. Trust me when I say, the wait is worth it! I think it’s why I came up with the brittle recipe to complement these chocolate goodies– it was a much needed distraction!
Below are recipes to the brownies and brittle.
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa (Cocoa Camino or Fry’s works just fine)
1½ teaspoons instant espresso (Optional, but if you don’t want a strong coffee presence, just halve the amount like I did)
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, finely chopped (I used callebaut)
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter, melted
½ cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2½ cups (17½ ounces) granulated sugar
1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
¾ teaspoon table salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into ½-inch pieces (I used Lindt)
- Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Referring to directions in Making a Foil Sling (related), make sling using the following steps: Cut 18-inch length foil and fold lengthwise to 8-inch width. Fit foil into length of 13 by 9-inch baking pan, pushing it into corners and up sides of pan; allow excess to overhang pan edges. Cut 14-inch length foil and fit into width of pan in the same manner, perpendicular to the first sheet (if using extra-wide foil, fold second sheet lengthwise to 12-inch width). Spray with nonstick cooking spray.
- Whisk cocoa, espresso powder (if using), and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. (Mixture may look curdled.) Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous. Whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add flour and salt and mix with rubber spatula until combined (I usually run a whisk through my dry ingredients to prevent any lumps when I add it to the wet mix). Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
- Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted halfway between edge and center comes out with just a few moist crumbs attached, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool 1½ hours.
- Using foil overhang, lift brownies from pan. Return brownies to wire rack and let cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 2-inch squares and serve. (yes, it’s a long wait, but well worth it to ensure that you get that desired chewy texture)
Yield: 24 brownies.
For the bacon:
15 slices of smoky bacon (I used regular and not thick cut. I wouldn’t recommend getting the low-sodium stuff because you want the saltiness of the bacon to cut through the sweetness of the brittle and brownie)
Preheat oven to 4ooF. Lay the slices out side by side on parchment lined baking sheet (or Silpat mat). To ensure even baking and a crisp texture, try not to overlap slices. Bake for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown and crispy. Cool bacon then crumbled into small- medium sized pieces.
Note: You can save the rendered fat that has accumulated on your baking sheet. It has loads of flavour and it’s great for baking and cooking. Just strain out any bacon pieces with a metal (not plastic) sieve and transfer to a glass jar. I just store mine in a cool dry place and not in the fridge.
For the brittle:
1 cup (8 ounces) granulated sugar
1/4 cup water
Line a baking sheet with foil or if you have a silicone baking mat, such as Silpat, use it. Stir sugar and 1/4 cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush occasionally. Mix in crumbled bacon. Pour onto sheet lined with foil or the Silpat; cool. Peel brittle from foil or Silpat. Chop or break into pieces. Store leftovers in an airtight container at room temperature. If you have a home that retains a lot of moisture (like I do), and find the pieces sticking to one another, just place the container of brittle in the fridge.