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I don't know when bacon became such a pop culture icon, but I remember the first time I ever tried bacon chocolate. Just an ordinary bar of chocolate with little pieces of bacon in it. What? It blew my mind. It was unexpected, and a little crazy, and I loved it. Lovers of the sweet/savory combo know what I'm talking about. Bacon adds just a hint more of that combo than, say, salted caramel might. Maybe it's just the idea of meat in a dessert, but it's amazing how much subtle, yet surprising, flavor a few salty, chewy pieces of bacon can impart on sweets.
Then I met the bacon maple doughnut at Voodoo Doughnut in Portland, Ore. I was skeptical. Little pieces of bacon in my chocolate were one thing. But what the Voodoo Doughnut people were offering was bacon, in your face. No apologies, no tucking it in as an unobtrusive accent mark.
I didn't think the cold strips of bacon on the maple bar doughnut I got looked very appetizing. But then I bit into it.
And I never looked back.
These bacon chocolate chip cookies are somewhere in between the mild-mannered bacon chocolate bar and the bold bacon maple doughnut. There's enough bacon in there that you don't overlook it, but it's easy to be fooled into thinking these are just ordinary chocolate chip cookies when you first bite into them. Even though you're the one who made them. Because they look so pedestrian, and you're not expecting the bacon. And the pieces of bacon don't overpower the cookie, which by itself is a fine, fine thin and chewy chocolate chip cookie, my favorite kind.
But they're there, and that meaty element just kicks in with no warning, and you're confused about what's happening in your mouth, then delighted, then reaching for a second cookie to make sure that what just happened with the first was no mistake.
I made these for my friend Maria, also a lover of sweets and baking and eating and kitchenwares stores. She and I began to swap Facebook posts about bacon a few years ago when she was on the hunt for bacon chocolate. Then, for Christmas one year, she sent me a package of ridiculously delicious caramel bacon peanut bark she'd made. I had to return the favor.
She ate them for breakfast.
Bacon chocolate chip cookies
5 strips bacon
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 stick (½ cup) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ cup white sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cups semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
Cook the bacon over medium-low heat in a large skillet, turning once, until cooked through and crispy. Let the bacon strips cool on a plate lined with a paper towel. When cooled, chop into small pieces.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt.
In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars using an electric mixer. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until just incorporated. Add the dry ingredients and, again, beat until just incorporated. Mix in the chocolate chips and bacon pieces (and pecan, if using) with a spoon, making sure these delicious components are evenly distributed.
These cookies spread a little, so drop cookie dough on baking sheets about two inches apart. (It's not the end of the world if they fuse together in the oven. In fact, I kind of enjoy the siamese cookies because I pretend they're too ugly to offer to anyone else and therefore must taste-test on the spot.) Bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are crispy and golden and the center is still slightly soft. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack.
Makes about 20 medium cookies.
Like Pavlov’s dog, the start of fall triggers an unhinged desire to buy more apples than one person can responsibly eat, and drink gallons of apple cider, and wrap myself in cozy sweaters and read by pumpkin-scented candles.