Tonight I had a hankering for a pretty simple sweet treat that I make from time to time: Vanilla Ice Cream with Homemade Salted Caramel Sauce.
So, on my way home from an afternoon of errands and visiting my family, I stopped at the Kroger near my apartment and got myself a carton of Breyer’s French Vanilla and a cup of heavy cream for the sauce. Otherwise, I had the sugar and sea salt at home already. Plus caramel sauce is very simple to make, if you know what you’re doing. But then I got an idea. While I was at the store, I decided to pick up some bacon, too, since I needed some for breakfast. This is where what I like to call the “culinarily twisted” part of my mind came into play…
Now, I’m sure most of us have heard of combining the savory and salty smokiness of bacon with some sort of sweet element. I also know that the idea of putting bacon on an ice cream sundae isn’t exactly a new one either. (At the very least, Burger King had beaten me to that punch by a couple of years.) But I thought it’d be more interesting to try to infuse the flavor of bacon into the caramel sauce itself. I did this by simply adding the rendered fat of 4 strips of bacon to my sauce. And the result is that familiar salted caramel taste combined with a faint smokiness that doesn’t overtly bespeak “bacon”, but adds a subtle depth of flavor.
Anyone who’s a fan of combining sweet and savory will love this one. Here’s how you make it:
First, chop 4 pieces of thick-cut bacon into bits…
(I neglected to take pictures of the rest of the process): In a small saucepan, combine 1 1/2 cups of sugar and 1/2 cup of water, and then place over medium high heat. Now, this is very important: Don’t stir with a spoon! Just swirl the pot until the sugar fully melts into liquid form. Then it’ll start to boil. Also, keep an eye on your pot! What you’ll want is for the melted sugar to turn a medium amber color. It should take 10 minutes, give or take, but judge by color, not by time. You need to be careful to not let your sugar get too dark, because then your sauce will taste bitter and burnt. Take it from someone who made that mistake once.
When the melted sugar reaches the desired color, immediately add 1 cup of cold heavy cream to the pot, being careful to not burn yourself, as this step will cause the contents of the pot to boil violently and steam heavily. Then, when the mixture calms down, add the bacon fat to the sauce. It’s ok to stir with a spoon at this point. Allow to cool to desired temperature before serving (I like my sauce to be a bit warm and slightly runny, personally), and cool completely (about 4 hours) before storing in the fridge. It presents quite well in a mason jar:
Serve over your favorite vanilla ice cream and the bacon bits you made earlier. The bacon bits add an almost roasted-nut flavor and crunch. You won’t regret it. I sure didn’t. 😉