I was invited to a dinner party, and the host, knowing my sweet tooth, asked if I'd bring dessert. First, I went to the annual International Food Festival on Ninth Avenue in Manhattan's Hell's Kitchen neighborhood and picked up a couple apple pies – crowd pleasers. But I wanted a little something extra.
Then a flash came to me. A few months back, a friend Mike Fisher noted he made bacon brownies. All he told me about them was that he cooked the bacon in the brownie pans so that the brownies would use the bacon grease.
Building from there, here's how I went about it:
First, I cooked the bacon in the oven at 350. I used a pound of bacon in two brownie pans, one a standard 9×13 and one a bit smaller (give or take). The brand doesn't matter, but I used the thickest, juiciest looking package I could find.
As the bacon cooked, I prepped the brownies from scratch. If you want to do something really quick, use the Kraft iFood Assistant if you have an iPhone or BlackBerry. I tried this and it had some great ideas, including Oreo brownies that I considered, though that would have been overkill for this mission.
I Googled other recipes and found one on AllRecipes for Quick and Easy Brownies with over 600 reviews and nearly five stars, and there were no fancy twists here. It's just sugar, butter, cocoa powder, vanilla, eggs, flour, baking powder, and salt. I scratched the walnuts from the original recipe and used 1 cup of flour instead of 1.5 cups based on feedback from reviewers on making the brownies chewier (actually, I doubled the whole recipe, so 2 cups instead of 3 – I like baking in bulk). One confession: I forgot the baking powder. The brownies still rose and you'd never know the difference; I've eaten enough brownies and couldn't tell. I think the bacon fumes were getting to my brain.
After I prepped the brownie batter, I took the crispy bacon out of the oven and poured most of the bacon grease in a bowl. I used a paper towl dabbed in the grease to fully coat every bit of the inside of the brownie pans, and then poured most of the rest of the grease in the batter itself, stirring some more.
I then poured about half the batter, maybe a bit more, into the pans. Then I layered the bacon on the batter and poured more batter on top. You can see the midpoint below with the smaller pan.
Again, the photo above is before I layered the rest of the batter on top to fully coat it. Then I put the pans in the oven, still at 350 as it was when I first cooked the bacon. The aroma of the oven that had the bacon cooking in it can only help the recipe.
Now I continued to improvise. I still had extra bacon (I bought two pounds and only used one so far). I cooked this in a pan on the stove while the brownies were bacon, getting it fairly crispy. I let this bacon cool for just a minute on a plate lined with paper towel – it wasn't the grease I was after here. Then I moved it right to the food processor, turned it on for a minute, and wound up with homemade bacon bits. Growing up on the fake stuff, this was a real treat – these flavor-packed granules of fresh bacon.
Once the brownies seemed to be five or ten minutes away from fully baked, I opened the oven, slid out the racks, grabbed the bacon bits by the handful, and sprinkled them across all the brownies. I used about a third of a pound of bacon in this, again for the double recipe of brownies. You want to make sure to have enough to get some on every brownie, as this aspect is sheer overkill. It also adds a fun crisp texture to the top of the brownies, and if you wind up taking a bite of a brownie and eat the bacon in the middle first, there's still some extra real bacon on top.
Take the brownies out of the oven when they pass the toothpick test – a toothpick stuck in the middle comes out clean, without brownie batter clinging to it. And if it seems to take extra long, just don't burn the suckers. For me, perhaps the combo of adding bacon grease to the batter and then forgetting baking powder increased the cooking time. The good news for anyone replicating this: I wasn't being too cautious and even used two plans with very different depths and dimensions, and it all came out well – not a single bite was noticeably overcooked or undercooked.
Here's how the brownies looked when they came out of the oven, this being the larger pan. I missed a few spots with the bacon bits but was trying not to burn myself. That objective was also successfully achieved.
Once the brownies cool enough, cut them with a very sharp knife. You need to slice through the bacon.
Lastly, enjoy! And try not too eat too many in one sitting.