For years now, I’ve played the polar opposite of a health advocate. Whenever possible, I’ve attempted to lace everything with fat, butter, cream, bacon, sugar, booze… You know, the usual sins. I’ve even gone so far as to proudly proclaim that a little bit of butter and cream does the female body good, words that I stand by to this day. Still, with my love for the sinful, there’s one subject that I have dwelled very little in over the years. And that, my friends, is the topic of desserts! My love for fat and gluttony aside, I seldom make or eat dessert, but when I do, baby, I’m all in!
With ingredients like these, how could things possibly go wrong?
When I do have dessert, I prefer them rich, decadent and sinful. As over the top as humanly possible. And I’ve certainly achieved that in this newest demented brainchild of mine. That’s right, class, today on the blog, we’re combining all major food groups – salt, sugar, bacon, booze and cream – into one decidedly decadent, sinful and over the top dessert: Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream!
No ice cream maker? No problem! Don’t have an ice cream maker? Fear not, neither do I! And I make perfectly acceptable ice cream at home. Using what the French call the parfait method, this post will help you make creamy, airy ice cream at home with no special equipment whatsoever. If you are in fat the lucky owner of an ice cream maker, you can probably easily modify the recipe to suit a standard ice cream maker procedure. If you do, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below so we can relay your results!
Heck, if you stick with us to the end, we might kick it up a notch and invite a bit of heat and honey to the party as well.
Wait, hold up, slow it down a bit, stop! Bacon… in cce cream? I know what you’re thinking, boys and girls… But yes, bacon ice cream is in fact a thing. It has been for a few years now. And it’s better than you might think. How do I know? Because I’ve had it – on a dare! Remember, kids, I along with my food blogger brethren do the experiments so YOU don’t have to!
Bacon… in ice cream? Oh yeah, it’s a thing!
I don’t know who first came up with the concept of bacon ice cream, but I’ll never forget the first time I had it. The story has been related in these pages before, but long (painful) story short, it was during a heatwave in New York City in the summer of 2012. Burger King had just released their now infamous Bacon Sundae: soft-serve ice cream topped with toffee, chocolate, bacon crumble and, above all things, candied bacon. An abomination in any sense of the word, and I was eating it on the hottest day of the year on a dare.
As gut-wrenchingly challenging as the experience was, there was, even during the painful aftermath, something about the combination of salty and sweet, smokey and creamy that sparked something in me. It was over the top, by a couple of miles, but there was something in the combination that just worked.
Later that night, after an unforgettable tasting menu at the table of culinary mad scientist Wylie Dufresne, I became certain that bacon and ice cream was a topic to explore. His Michelin-starred end to the meal featured French toast, brown butter ice cream and, again, candied bacon. This time as a much more elegant, subdued component that succeeded in completely blowing me away, even with the memory of the Burger King experience still lingering in my mind and gut. I knew then that I had to eventually do my spin on bacon ice cream.
Why it eventually took me three years, I’ve no idea, but hey. All good things come to those who wait, right? And sometimes with time, plans only become better, right?
Quality pig products, please! Listen up guys and gals, this is important! A lot of things qualify as bacon these days, and not all of them are created equal. Sadly, much of the bacon flying off supermarket shelves these days is artificial stuff pumped full of water, smoke aroma and sometimes even worse things. For our sinful experiment, we want a nice, subtle, smokey and natural spicy taste profile. So please, for the love of God, spend a little extra money on some quality bacon without preservatives and nasty stuff and make sure to read the fine print on the package so you get something smoked over real wood, not something laced with liquid smoke or other sorts of artificial aromas. Your extra investment WILL be handsomely rewarded!
Spiking it up: Putting the Bourbon in Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream
My eventual spin on bacon ice cream is by no means as sophisticated as the version proposed by Wylie Dufresne but neither is at as vulgar and trashy as the Burger King version. It’s somewhere in between. Somewhere between trashy and sophisticated in that wonderful land we call culinary sin, with a bit of actual thought thrown in. It’s over the top and in your face, yes, but hey, that’s me. And it has something that none of the other versions had: Bourbon! The sweet, sweet nectar of the South!
Bourbon, it’s more than whiskey with an e! Scotch? Whisky? Whiskey? Bourbon? What the hell is the difference? Well, Scotch, is obviously the American name for what the Scots would simply call Whisky. Whiskey, on the other hand, generally refers to American (or sometimes Irish) whiskey made in much the same style as Scottish Whisky. It is in the difference between Whiskey and Bourbon that things get a little more complicated. Basically all Bourbons are whiskey, but not all whiskies are Bourbons. Where Scotch Whisky is made from malted barley, American whiskey seems to favor corn. Bourbon Whiskey, in particular, is whiskey with a high corn content of 51% or more, aged in new, charred oak casks. Such is the way of the law which also poses strict regulations for alcohol content and ageing. There are no regulations regarding specific geographic origins of Bourbon but even so most seem to be produced in Kentucky, whereas spirits from neighboring areas (such as the famous Jack Daniels), while technically Bourbons, prefer to use names such as Tennessee Whiskey, American Whiskey or similar. Japanese Whisky, by the way, is Whisky without an E, but that’s another post.
Where, then, does the bourbon fit in, you ask? Well, everything’s better with bourbon, right? Well, maybe not Rice Krispies… But a lot of things! Okay? And while I honestly used to hate the stuff (too many bad experiences involving too much Jack D & Coke in too little time?), I have as of late, and especially since my 2014 road trip of Dixie, found quite a bit of fascination for the sweet, smokey brown nectar that is top-shelf bourbon.
As a tribute to the beautiful American South and to my wonderful trip around the area that took place exactly a year ago at the time of this writing, I decided to spike my ice cream with a generous amount of bourbon (in my case Bulleit Bourbon which is by no means top shelf but certainly not bottom shelf either) for a bit of southern authenticity and spice. Luckily, with it’s flavor profile that is at one time sweet and spicy and bursting with notes of vanilla and toasted wood/smoke, bourbon plays exceedingly well with both the sweet flavors of ice cream and the savory, smoky flavors of bacon. It’s a match made in heaven, really. In theory at least, so let’s put it to the test, shall we?
Oh, wait, just one more thing before we get started… There’s a liiiiittle matter of time…
Plan ahead: Time is of the essence!
Making ice cream takes time. That should come as no surprise to anybody. Well, okay, if you happen to have a stash of liquid nitrogen at hand, it wouldn’t take much time, but let’s for the sake of clarity ignore for now that possibility and just all agree that making ice cream takes time, ok? At least six hours or so.
Worried about the extra time penalty incurred? Don’t! Put it to good use, like… by spending time with another Southern staple, PBR!
For this particular recipe, we’re going to need a little more time than that. See, we want the flavors of bacon in our ice cream, but we don’t want little soggy, gummy bites of cooked bacon in the final product. Nor do we want the sticky bacon fat ruining the silky texture and mouthfeel of our ice cream. So we’re gonna have to find a way to work the bacon flavor into the ice cream without getting actual bacon in there. And we’re going to do that through the process of infusion. Which basically involves drawing the flavor of one ingredient, in this case bacon, into a water-like liquid, in this case Bourbon and cream, over the course of some time, in this case 12 hours. This process, which we will cover in details below, obviously increases the time span of our exercise. From just over six hours to something closer to 24 hours. Bear that in mind when starting out, and have no fear, your patience, I swear, will be rewarded.
Oi! You’re taking away my buzz! Why boil the alcohol? Reading the recipe below, you might be a little stumped by the fact that I’m telling you to not only boil but to heavily reduce down the Bourbon. That may seem like an awful waste and as if I’m trying to take away your buzz. But the thing is, my friends, boiling the Bourbon not only intensifies and mellows the flavor, giving us a more flavorful and smooth ice cream eating experience. It also serves the purpose of removing much of the alcohol which, while nice to have around for inebriation purposes, will severely limit the ice cream’s ability to freeze properly and reach our desired texture. I’m sorry, but it’s a sacrifice you will have to make. If you’re worried about maintaining a buzz, why not serve a snifter of Bourbon on the side? Bacon Bourbon ice cream with Bourbon? Everybody wins!
Culinary Sins: Bacon and Bourbon Ice Cream
- 150 grams thin-cut quality bacon
- 4 egg yolks
- 100 grams sugar
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup can substitute simple syrup or liquid honey
- 1 vailla pod
- 150 ml Bourbon whiskey
- 500 ml heavy cream
- Slice the bacon into 1 cm strips and dump into a heavy bottom sauce pan, turn heat under pan to medium.
- Cook bacon for a couple of minutes until the fat has rendered out and the pieces are nice and brown.
- Pour off the fat and reserve for some other use, keep the bacon in the pan over medium heat and add the Bourbon. Stand back, it might flame!
- Cook the bacon in the Bourbon over medium heat until the bourbon has reduced by about 2/3.
- Take the pan off the heat and strain the bacon infused Bourbon into a separate small bowl, taking care to reserve the bacon bits. Add the maple syrup to the Bourbon, stir and cover the bacon Bourbon infusion then put it in the fridge overnight.
- Pour the cream into the still hot sauce pan along with all the reserved bacon bits, allow the pan to cool, then put it in the fridge and leave the creamy mess to infuse overnight (about twelve hours).
- First things first, check on the bourbon. A solid, cloudy layermay have formed on the top. This is congealed bourbon infused bacon fat. It’s good stuff, you’ll want to carefully remove it and reserve for some other use. Pork chops, anyone?
- Next, strain the bacon bits from the cream. Put the cream back in the fridge and discard the bacon, its job is done.
Making the ice cream:
- In a heavy bottom sauce pan add three egg yolks, 100 grams of sugar and the bacon-infused bourbon.
- Heat to about 60C over low heat, whisking vigorously until sugar has dissolved and mixture is creamy and frothy. Then remove egg mixture from heat.
- Split the vanilla pod in half, scrape out the seeds and add to your eggs mixture. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature while still whisking, you can do so in an ice water bath if you like, or through plain old patience.
- Once mixture has cooled down, grab your bacon-infused cream from the fridge (you'll want it very cold at this stage) and whip it using your favorite tool for the job (be it your hand or an electric mixer).
- Carefully fold the egg mixture into the whipped cream, making sure not to force out he air that you’ve just beaten into it.
- Carefully pour the parfait mixture into a suitable container and stash in the freezer for at least 4-6 hours, overnight would be better.
- NOTE: Remove ice cream from the freezer about 20-30 minutes prior to scooping and serving.
Food safety warning: This recipe contains raw/undercooked egg yolks! If you're the least bit worried about food-borne illnesses, please consider using pasteurized egg yolks, or use fresh eggs from a trusted source. Salmonella is rare, but no joke!
Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream: An unlikely match made in heaven!
You may at this point (still) be wondering if the unlikely marriage that is Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream is really such a great idea. Well, you’re well in your right to be skeptical and I can’t blame you for being so. Let me start by assuring you that there is method behind this madness and that the addition of bacon to ice cream does in fact not make for a meaty, fatty, let alone remotely savory ice cream. The resulting ice cream is indeed not only sweet, it’s also complex and awesome in ways that pretty much defy explanation. Even so, the most repeated question (next to “By Gawd… Why?!”) I’ve received since first hinting about this project on Facebook and Instagram has been: “But what does it taste like?” And so, allow me to at least try to explain.
Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, I give you: Bacon & Bourbon Ice Cream with Candied Bacon and Honey/Ghost Chili caramel
Because of the slow, careful infusion method we used, the bacon becomes a prominent flavor in the resulting ice cream, but not an overpowering one at that, and not in a full on meaty sort of way. Rather, the end results is more like a top quality vanilla ice cream with an amazing depth and some prominent, completely unfamiliar yet strangely welcome cured, salty and smoky flavors from the bacon lingering behind on the tongue, intensifying the flavor and enjoyment. The Bourbon, for what it’s worth, does not so much add booziness as it adds further depth and complexity and a nice shake of spice as well as some toasted and smoky notes with hints of vanilla, probably from the barrel ageing. The vanilla notes obviously pairs exceedingly well with the vanilla used in the sweet ice cream base whereas the smokey and toasty spicy notes play really well with the ditto notes of the bacon.
In short: the end result is a lightly spicy, slightly smoky, sweet, creamy and complex vanilla ice cream with a couple of unfamiliar yet strangely welcome savory notes that might not at first register as bacon or Bourbon to the casual eater, but will be instantly recognizable and welcome once the link has been established. It’s a weird combination, but a sexy and awesome one at that! And, weird as it sounds, it will knock your socks off – especially if you take it a little further over the top with a few decadent toppings of choice.
Spicing it up a bit: Choice toppings for Bacon Bourbon Ice Cream
Now, I know what you’re all thinking. Wow, Johan, that sounds pretty damn decadent, sinful and over the top as is… But how can I make it even more sinful and over the top? Well, I’m glad you asked, you naughty, little monkey! You can start by doing the obvious which is to get some more bacon (yeah, more bacon!) and use it to top your bacon bourbon ice cream with my amazingly brilliant maple and chipotle candied bacon from my reinventing Danish classics post. The sweet, meaty and spicy flavors really help elevate the dish even further.
Maple and Chipotle candied bacon… It’s not a crime, people!
Still not enough? What more do you want from me? Well, how’s this? Listen, I’ve got one more trick up my sleeve for you: a drizzle of honey/ghost chili caramel!
To make the caramel I basically melted down two parts local honey with one part of my homemade ghost chili syrup and one part bourbon that had been flamed to ease the burn, then boiled the hell out of it until a golden color and a runny caramel-like consistency had been reached. I then let it cool and used it for generously drizzling over the ice cream. If you feel like making your own chili syrup is a bot too much work or, like some, you can’t handle the heat. You can, of course, skip the ghost chili syrup and just add a bit extra honey, maybe followed by a shake of your favorite ground chili, be it Chipotle, Cayenne, Ancho or something else entirely.
A little too over the top? Yeah, possibly…
Now, then, How’s that for a hot and sweet, creamy, boozy, salty and smokey, delightfully sinful and decadent treat? Still want more? I’m sorry, but even I can t help you here. You’re on your own! If you do make the effort, though, I’d love to hear from you how you managed to bring this over the top dessert even further over the top!
Oh man, what a rush!
Whether you want to scale it down or kick it up a notch, I do hope you’ll be willing to give this decidedly strange and sinful combination a shot. Though, before I leave you to it, friends, a fair word of warning: Since this dessert is a bit on the, uh, decadent side (to say the least), I feel like I should offer a few words on the subject of portion control. While chowing down a huge serving of this amazingly decadent dessert isn’t too much of a challenge for most people, digesting it just might be.
There’s something about the combined force of a major rush of sugar, a fair helping of heavy cream and a bit of animal fat, cholesterol, smoke and alcohol hitting your system that tends to send some people (meeeee!) off their equilibrium for a while. I went a little daring on portion size the first time I served this up with some, ahem, interesting results to follow as guests started first giggling from the sheer sugar rush, then turned woozy, meat drunk and eventually borderline apathetic as they hit the couch and the heavy cream settled into their systems.
I advice going with a service size of about one scoop per diner and letting that settle in for a while before offering seconds. Now that doesn’t sound like very much, but I guarantee you’ll want to eat more of this stuff than is eventually a good idea!
Now have at you, and don’t say I didn’t warn you, you naughty monkey 🙂