I am sure I have mentioned this before but just in case, I do not really watch cooking shows. So don’t say to me :have you heard of the latest crazy chef “enter name here”? Chances are you will be the first to tell me. I like cooking shows but I have trouble keeping full attention. It is the same with sports on TV. Of course I am aware of the hit shows, take Chopped for instance where a mystery basket of ingredients is given and must all be used in a recipe.
Well that is exactly our theme this month for the Creative Cooking Crew which is hosted by Lazaro Cooks and Foodalogue. I was really excited by this challenge. Give me weird stuff to mix up and I am a happy gal! The ingredients we were given were Granny Smith apples, nut butter, vinegar and bacon. When I read the list I had no idea what to make but I wanted the extra challenge of coming up with a dessert. My creation is a Candied Bacon and Apple Halva with Maple Gastrique.
OK so halva is made of tahini, or sesame seeds, technically not a nut. But it is often sold as a nut butter and I cleared it with the hosts. I adore halva, a candy made of sugar and sesame paste. The store kind had a nice brittle flaky texture which is apparently hard to reproduce at home in small quantities. My first attempt was a fail because I got a more liquid tahini. Make sure to get a thick sesame paste! I approached my second try more like a fudge recipe and it was a success. To that I added some cubed apples and maple syrup candied bacon.
Here is a bit of info on halva, in case you are not familiar with it. This popular candy calls many regions of the world home: Middle East, Asia, North Africa, Eastern Europe and the Jewish world. There are two basic versions to the “paste”: one is made with a nut butter and the other with a flour base. Often nuts, dried fruits, some vegetables, chocolate or seeds are added. The nut butter one has a dry and flaky texture, where as the flour one is moist like a steamed English pudding.
adapted from The Clever Carrot
- 3 slices of good quality bacon
- 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
- Preheat your oven to 350°F. Wrap a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and top with a wire rack.
- In a large bowl add the maple syrup and the bacon to the bowl and toss gently with your hands. Make sure that all of the slices are evenly coated. Place the bacon in a single layer onto the wire rack.
- Bake in the center of the oven for about 20 minutes. The bacon will be a bit brown, but will most likely need to bake for another 10-15 minutes. It should look slightly dark and crispy. Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the rack. Cut into pieces.
You know sometimes innocence is bliss. I love mixing up ethnic recipes with unexpected ingredients. But of course leave it to me to put bacon in a traditional Jewish or Middle Eastern dessert. This was pointed out to me by my non religious but Jewish friend who happens to be a vegetarian. We had quite a laugh. Oops!
adapted from Your Abu Dhabi Guide
A Candied Bacon and Apple Halva with Maple Gastrique dessert was my inspiration following the Creative Cooking Crew challenge of using apples, nut butter, vinegar and bacon in one recipe.
- 1/3 cup milk
- 1 cup brown sugar, packed
- 1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste), beaten to mix in any excess oil
- 1/3 cup bacon pieces, packed
- 1/2 cup apple, cut into small cubes
- Boil a mixture of milk and sugar in a pan over medium heat until it reaches the soft-ball phase or until the candy thermometer reaches "soft ball" stage or 240°F. Remove from heat and add the tahini without stirring it in ( this helps form the sugar crystals). Leave the pan alone until the mixture cools down to 110°F. Stir in apples and bacon. Beat with a wooden spoon until it looses it’s shininess. Pour into an small oiled mold lined with baking paper (I used a 6 in cake pan) or a plastic container. Make sure all the apples are pushed in and covered by the mixture. Refrigerate for 24 hours. Cut into slices while cold.
The vinegar puzzled me for a bit. I did dip my cubed apples in a bowl of cold water with a bit of vinegar so they would not oxidized but I did not think it was a big enough effort.
Finally my friend who happens to be a professional pastry chef suggested I make a gastrique. A gastrique is a sauce made of caramelized sugar which has been deglazed with vinegar. Since I used maple syrup for the bacon I figured I would used maple syrup for the gastrique as well. This bacon-maple syrup combo is just awesome, very appropriate as it is Maple Syrup Season. This was actually the theme of a challenge I hosted once on a Daring Bakers.
- 1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup
- In a small saucepan set over high heat, boil the vinegar until reduced by half. Add the maple syrup and reduce until the mixture is thick. Drizzle over halva slices.