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Friday, September 7, 2012

Maple Whiskey Ice Cream with Candied Bacon

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The scene is this:

It’s 9:00 pm, twilight has turned into darkness, and I’ve attempting to navigate my way to the W hotel in downtown Seattle. I’ve successfully found my way from the airport to downtown (a drive I’ve done many times before), but things suddenly took a turn for the worst. My directions had me getting off at an unfamiliar exit. I did, only to find myself amidst a crazy interchange of on ramps and off ramps (Seattle highways are weird!!). The drivers around me were clearly annoyed by my (admittedly) crazy driving and so I abandoned my directions and took the first ramp I saw, only to find myself in Chinatown. One thing was sure—the W was not in Chinatown. I didn’t even know Seattle had a Chinatown! Once I navigated my way toward my hotel, I had 10 more stressful minutes of dealing with one way streets, inconspicuous hotel entrances, and an awkward exchange with the valet attendants. 

While most people probably would’ve thrown in the towel for the evening and holed up in their hotel room, I had a different plan in mind: ice cream. Stress levels high, my immediate instinct was to Yelp the nearest ice cream shop. When I saw that Cupcake Royale was less than half a mile away and only open for another 30 minutes, I dropped my luggage and hightailed it over there (on foot! No more cars for me that day!). One GIANT ice cream cone later (I had no less than three people comment on it on my walk back to the hotel), I had all but forgotten the anxiety-ridden trip from the airport.
It’s easy to let all worries fall away when you’re eating maple whiskey bacon ice cream. This was one of the two flavors I tried at Cupcake Royale and I was immediately smitten by it. The employee insisted that I sample it first, claiming it had a real strong sweet / salty thing going for it, and I did, but was it any question I was going to fall in love with the combination? He obviously hasn’t heard of this popcorn. As soon as I finished my cone, I vowed to come home and recreate both flavors…it took me all of four days before I set out in my kitchen to give this one a try (the other is still to come!).
Cupcake Royale’s description of their Whiskey Maple Bacon Crack flavor is real maple ice cream with a hint of Woodinville Whiskey loaded with house-made bacon crack (aka brittle). I took this description as a starting point and went from there…modifying one of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams to omit her mix-ins and add bourbon, and then adding a hefty portion of candied bacon to the ice cream as it finished churning. I grabbed a spoonful of the finished ice cream and immediately texted Ryan, “Holy crap I think I nailed it!”.
 I’ll have to return to Cupcake Royale next time I’m in town and compare again—but I think I came pretty darn close to recreating the amazingness they captured in their Whiskey Maple Bacon Crack. It’s sweet and salty and a little savory, no one ingredient overpowering the other, but instead the perfect match. Beware the addictive powers of this—I could not pry myself away and it disappeared far too quickly from our freezer!

One Year Ago: Blueberry Flan
Two Years Ago: Lemon Tart
Three Years Ago: Blue Cheese Stuffed Turkey Burgers

Maple Whiskey Ice Cream with Candied Bacon
inspired by Cupcake Royale 

Ingredients:
-2 cups whole milk
-1 tbsp plus 1 tsp cornstarch
-3 tbsp cream cheese, softened
-1/2 tsp fine sea salt
-1 1/4 cups heavy cream
-2 tbsp light corn syrup
-1 1/2 cups pure maple syrup
-1/4 cup bourbon
-4-6 slices bacon
-1/4 cup brown sugar

Directions:
1. To make the candied bacon, line a baking sheet with foil. Top with bacon and sprinkle bacon with brown sugar. Bake at 350F for 25-35 minutes, until sugar is caramelized and bacon is beginning to crisp. Set aside and allow to cool (bacon will crisp up as it cool).
2. To make the ice cream, mix 2 tbsp of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl, whisking until smooth.
3. In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt.
4. Mix the heavy cream with the corn syrup in a measuring cup and set aside.
5. Bring the maple syrup to a boil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and allow to boil for 8 minutes, or until reduced by one-half. Remove from heat and slowly add the cream/corn syrup mixture, stirring constantly. Stir in the remaining milk.
6. Return to medium-high heat and bring to a rolling boil, cooking for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch mixture. Again, bring the mixture to a boil and cook, stirring with a spatula, until slightly thickened (about 1 minute).
7. Remove from heat and gradually add the hot milk mixture into the cream cheese mixture, stirring until smooth. Stir in the bourbon. Pour the entire mixture into a one-gallon Ziploc freezer bag and place in a bowl filled with ice water. Allow to stand and cool completely, 30-45 minutes.
8. Pour mixture into the ice cream maker and churn according to manufacturer's instructions. Just before it finishes churning, add the candied bacon. Scoop mixture into a storage container and freeze for at least four hours before serving.