I remember the first time I heard of bacon ice cream. It was in the second season of Iron Chef America, and this was a completely shocking thing in 2005. Intriguing, yes, but definitely not at all trendy or chic. Even Alton Brown himself seemed wowed by Cat Cora’s creation. I thought it sounded downright bizarre – I had been a vegetarian for so long by this time I was starting to eat a little bit of fish and the occasional chicken dish, but bacon? So far off my radar I actually thought it sounded kind of gross, and surely bacon ICE CREAM was purely made for shock value – the Howard Stern of dessertstuffs.
In the intervening years, bacon has been having a bit of a renaissance, including other sweet applications. Turns out it pairs really well with sweetness, especially maple (think maple syrup dripping off your pancakes onto the side of bacon beside it). I got to try the ice cream itself at Michael Symon’s restaurant Lola, and was deeply impressed. A few years later, I myself made a cranberry bacon brittle after being inspired by Michael Ruhlman at the 2010 BlogHer Food conference. And now I live in a city that arguably has the biggest bacon fetish of any municipality: Portland, Oregon: The maple bacon donut is one of the most popular items at Voodoo Doughnut, to name only the most famous example.
But I’ve recently been avoiding dairy as much as I can. Ice cream is my dessert of choice, for sure, so you’d think I’d be feeling deprived. But thanks to the advent of coconut milk ice cream, gone are the days where soy and rice milk versions were the only alternatives. If you’ve never tried it, you absolutely must. As delectable as Coconut Bliss and So Delicious brands (among others) are, though, I doubt they’ll be coming out with a bacon version.
As soon as I had the idea, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I had to try and synthesize the two: the ultimate in sweet-meets-savory delight of maple and bacon plus the creamy, dairy-free deliciousness of coconut milk ice cream.
COCONUT MILK ICE CREAM WITH MAPLE AND BACON
1/2 pound bacon (yielding about 1/2 cup cooked bacon when crumbled)
4 egg yolks
1 can (14 ounces) regular coconut milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup maple sugar or light brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
To start, make sure the bowl of your ice cream maker is frozen and ready to roll.
Fry bacon in a large skillet over medium heat for about 15 minutes, turning frequently, until crisp and brown. Let cool on paper towels, then chop/crumble into bits. This should be approximately half a cup or so. Whisk egg yolks together in a small bowl and set aside.
Heat water in a small saucepan and set a metal bowl on top (or just use a double boiler set if you’re so equipped); make sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Add coconut milk and whisk until smooth as it heats up (heat to hot but not boiling). Once it’s hot, add about 1/4 cup of the coconut milk to the egg yolks and whisk vigorously, then add another 1/4 cup or two, whisking to incorporate the coconut milk thoroughly each time. The slow introduction of the milk (the technique known as tempering) is to prevent the eggs from overcooking or scrambling.
Once you’ve transferred about half the coconut milk into the egg mix, pour it all back into the metal bowl and whisk continuously for another 5-10 minutes, until custard starts to thicken. It won’t be as thick as, say, a pudding, but you’ll definitely notice it gradually becoming more substantial.
Remove from heat and add in the vanilla, syrup, sugar if using (you could also use only 3/4 cup maple syrup), salt and bacon bits. Transfer to the fridge and let it cool before you add it to your ice cream maker; maybe an hour or so.
From there, you’re following whatever the manufacturer’s instructions on your home machine advise. For the Cuisinart I was borrowing while my Kitchen Aid languishes in storage (thanks, Kimberly of Blues City Biscuits), I churned it for 30 minutes and then froze it for several hours.
— posted by Anne