Baking with Bacon!
I am proud to say that I am a member of ABL - Association of Bacon Lovers. Bacon is one of those treats that I don't indulge in too often. But when I do have bacon in the house, I like to use it in creative ways in my baking. One dish my husband really loves is maple bacon biscuit bake, which I usually make on Christmas Eve morning. I'll be writing about that recipe soon. Today, I'm sharing with you a very simple bar cookie recipe that I found at King Arthur Flour's web site: Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars. These bars are delectable: dense and chewy, buttery and caramelly. AND the recipe is tailor-made for personalizing with your favorite cookie add-ins. This week, I had some bacon in the fridge that I needed to use so I decided to jump on one of the latest baking crazes - Bacon Chocolate Chip cookies. But I'm too busy to scoop single cookies so I decided to make chewy chocolate chip bar cookies and to substitute bacon for some of the chocolate chips. Sound good to you? Me too! Let's bake!
While your oven is preheating to 350 degrees, lightly grease a 9 x 13 pan. I like to use butter for this task. You want to melt 2/3 cup salted butter in a microsafe bowl. Add the melted butter to the bowl of your mixer to let it cool while you gather the other ingredients.
Let's get the dry ingredients together first. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 2-3/4 cups AP flour, 2-1/4 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder. The espresso powder is optional. I always use it in chocolate recipes because it helps to enhance the flavor of the chocolate.
In the bowl of your mixer, add 1 pound (yes, pound!) of light brown sugar to the melted butter and mix it together. Then add to that mixture 3/4 teaspoon table salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla butternut flavoring. The vanilla butternut flavoring is another optional ingredient. I use it because it gives a wonderful nutty note to the flavor of the bars. If you don't have it, don't worry. Your bars will still be tasty.
Next, beat in three large eggs to the butter/sugar mixture. Remember, add the eggs one at a time and beat the mixture well after each egg to ensure proper incorporation into the batter. What does that mean? Well, when you can no longer see any trace of the egg in the batter, it has been properly incorporated. What I tell kids when I teach them is beat the batter until it is no longer slimy from the egg. Take a look at the photos below. In the top shot, you can still see the egg, right? In the second photo, the sliminess from the egg has disappeared which indicates that the egg has been properly incorporated.
Next, add in the flour mixture and beat on low speed until well combined with the butter sugar mixture. Now, for the add-ins. The original recipe calls for three cups of chocolate chips. I substituted chopped cooked bacon for one cup of the chocolate chips. This translates to one 12 oz. bag of chips and about 3/4 pound bacon, cooked and roughly chopped. What does roughly chopped mean? Big pieces of bacon and not small fine pieces. I wanted to be sure that the bacon is noticeable in the final cookie. Stir the chips and bacon pieces into the dough.
Your cookie dough will be soft but not runny. Scoop the dough into the prepared 9 x 13 pan and press it evenly over the bottom of the pan into the corners. Smooth the top of the dough so that it bakes evenly.
Slide the pan in the oven and bake the bars for 30 to 32 minutes. The bars will be puffed and golden; the top will be shiny. BUT, and this is very important, a tester inserted into the center of the bars will NOT come out clean. This is what you want. If you leave the bars in the oven until the center yields a clean tester, the bars will be overdone and hard and not the irresistibly chewy morsel that you want. When the edges of the bars appear dry after 30 to 32 minutes of baking the bars are done and should be removed from the oven, even though the center will still appear to be molten. As the bars cool, the center will solidify.
Let the bars cool in the pan on a rack. Cover the pan and let the bars sit at room temperature over night. When the sun comes up the next day, be prepared for pure bliss. Buttery, brown sugary, nutty, chocolately, bacony chewy bliss! Believe me, it doesn't get any better than that.
Would you like a cookie? Mix up a batch of these babies. You will be so glad you did.