Maker’s Mark Ice Cream with a Maple Caramel Swirl and Candied Bacon Bits

Posted: March 20th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Dessert, Ice Cream | Tags: , , , | 20 Comments »

Maker's Mark Ice Cream with Candied Bacon Bits

I came up with the idea for this particular ice cream for this weekend’s Bacon Camp, an event put on by Karen (and…?). I wanted to make something decadent and amazing that no one had tasted ever before. I was inspired by a few sources. Kasey’s bacon-infused Maker’s Mark came to mind (so smoky!), as did Doc Pop’s limited edition fro-yo with Cinnamon Toast Crunch, bacon bits, and maple syrup on top. I had the pleasure of having a bowl of it last week. Utterly delicious.

When I got on the web to start researching how to put this recipe together, I found that I was not the first to attempt this bacon ice cream thing. The recipe to which I owe the greatest credit was David Lebovitz’s Candied Bacon Ice Cream. It even has a bit of alcohol in it, though it is less of a focus.

I ran into trouble with his recipe, though. The bacon didn’t candy as I’d hoped it would. The problem was that the technique didn’t allow the fat and moisture to drain at all– American bacon has a LOT more fat than French bacon, judging from the pictures. What I got, even after cooking for an additional 10 minutes, was delicious sticky gooey floppy bacon, not crisp little bacon bits encased in hard sugar as I’d hoped. I tucked those away in the fridge for, uh, safekeeping and moved on to the next candied bacon recipe— this one posted on epicurious, care of Gourmet magazine, February 2007. I used brown sugar instead of demerara sugar, and chopped the bacon into bits before cooking them.

Though it was better than the last, this recipe failed me too. I found that even after I drained the pan, the residual oil and crusty bacon stuff stuck to the bottom of the pan caused the sugar to melt unevenly and not cover the bacon very well. Ultimately, the result tasted burnt–partly, I think, because the sugar burnt slightly (being brown sugar, I couldn’t tell when it was caramelized), and partly because the bacon stuff on the bottom of the pan burned. The bacon bits also stuck together, and the candy surrounding them was slightly tacky on the tooth, rather than being crisp, like I wanted. Lastly, the bacon was overdone. Still pretty tasty, but not good enough.

Armed with my newfound knowledge, I devised a plan of my own: cook the bacon bits to perfection, let them drain on paper towels. In a small, clean sauce pan, melt regular white sugar just until the sugar is dissolved. Add bacon bits and quickly coat them, then pull them out and put them on parchment paper. Third time’s the charm; it worked beautifully! Well, mostly. When the sugar cooled almost instantly as it hit the bacon, it all stuck together into a giant bacony, sugary glob. This made it difficult to get even coverage. I spent a while painstakingly separating the bits into more managable pieces. While it could have been a little better, the result was close enough: slightly crisp, slightly tender bacon bits encased in a crisp sugar shell.

For the ice cream itself, I used David Lebovitz’s recipe, with a few slight alterations: I used 1/4 cup Maker’s Mark* instead of a mere 2 teaspoons, I added 1 1/2 teaspoons molasses, and I nixed the cinnamon. One very important thing I learned when making the custard was not to let the initial butter/brown sugar/half & half mixture get too hot. It will curdle and you will have to throw it away. I somehow managed to do this TWICE. Don’t let it boil, heck don’t let it bubble at all. Just warm it up. Be similarly careful you’ve added the eggs in, too.

*Note: don’t be tempted to try to reduce the bourbon in an attempt to get the ice cream to freeze better. It just ruins the bourbon, which will make you very, very sad. The ice cream will freeze just fine, I promise.

Lastly, I had to make the maple caramel swirl for the ice cream. I used this recipe–also from epicurious/Gourmet November 1998–and substituted maple sugar for the light corn syrup. It didn’t turn out perfectly. I believe I didn’t let the sugar/syrup/water mixture boil for long enough because I couldn’t tell when it was an appropriate “deep golden caramel” color– the color of the maple syrup threw me off. A candy thermometer would help with this, though I don’t know what temp to bring it to. I ended up adding the cream/vanilla mixture too soon, and it didn’t seize up like it said it would. I try to cook it for a long time after the cream had been added to compensate, and in the end I got a caramel that was the perfect consistency, except it was a bit grainy in texture. I’m not sure if that’s from the milk solids curdling or the maple syrup crystalizing, but it still tastes DELICIOUS (and maple syrup is expensive) so I decided to keep it.

Tonight I finally put it all together. It is divine. The ice cream/caramel is ridiculous just on its own, and the bacon is wild– it totally throws me off! So salty-sweet and crunchy. Now we just have to see if the crunchiness will stick around after the bacon bits have been immersed in the ice cream for a while.

“Shut up Heather, just give us the recipe already!” you’re saying. Okay okay, here it is:

Maker’s Mark Ice Cream with a Maple Caramel Swirl and Candied Bacon Bits

[Note: Please do not copy and paste this recipe into your blog without asking me first. Do feel free to link to it and post excerpts or rewritten/tweaked versions! Thanks!]

Adapted in part from David Lebovitz’s Candied Bacon Ice Cream recipe, and Gourmet’s Coffee Caramel Swirl Ice Cream recipe.

This is a multi-step, two day process, so be sure to allot enough time!


For the ice cream custard:
3 tablespoons salted butter
3/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
2 3/4 cup half-and-half (make sure the kind you get has no added carrageenan)
5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup Maker’s Mark bourbon
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 teaspoons molasses

For the maple caramel swirl:
pinch sea salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup water
7 tablespoons heavy cream (again, no added carrageenan)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

For the candied bacon bits:
5 slices thick-cut, applewood smoked bacon
1/3 cup sugar
Parchment paper (or a brown paper bag)

Day 1:

Make the bacon bits:

  1. Cut the raw bacon into 1cm squares — cutting each strip in half lengthwise, and several times crosswise.
  2. In a heavy skillet over med-high heat, cook the bacon bits until slightly crisp but still a bit chewy, being careful to not burn or overcook them.
  3. While the bacon is cooking, prepare a plate with paper towels on it to drain the bacon, and lay out a piece of parchment paper for the candied bacon.
  4. Place bacon bits on paper towel to drain; pat off excess fat. Pour off fat from pan and save it for some other tasty treat.
  5. Pour 1/3 cup sugar into a small heavy saucepan. Over low to medium heat, melt the sugar just until all the crystals are dissolved and the sugar syrup looks homogeneous. Be careful as you’re doing this; sugar melts slowly but burns quickly — keep heat lower rather than higher. As soon as sugar has dissolved, immediately add the bacon bits and stir to cover. Place bacon bits on parchment paper and separate from each other. (There may be a better way to do this, like to dip each bacon bit individually, or add them in small batches, or pour the sugar over them, or something. I haven’t tried it.)
  6. Allow bacon bits to cool on the parchment.

Make the maple caramel swirl:

  1. In a heavy saucepan, boil sugar, maple syrup, water, and a pinch sea salt over moderate heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil mixture, without stirring, gently swirling pan, until it is a deep golden caramel color. (Note: this is difficult to tell with the maple syrup. A candy thermometer might help, but I couldn’t tell you what temperature to bring it to.*)
  2. Remove pan from heat and carefully pour cream and vanilla down side of pan (mixture will vigorously steam and caramel will harden). Simmer mixture, stirring, until caramel is dissolved. Remove pan from heat and cool caramel. Caramel swirl may be made 1 week ahead and chilled, covered. Bring to room temp before using (heat slightly if too stiff to pour).

*I added the cream too soon, so I just continued boiling the mixture until it was the correct thickness. I tested thickness by dropping a bit of it on a cool plate and letting it cool to room temp. Then I ate it.

Make the ice cream custard:

  1. Pour half of the half-and-half (about 1 and a little more than 1/3 cup) into a large bowl and set it in an ice bath.* Set a mesh strainer over the top of the bowl.
  2. In a separate bowl, lightly whisk together 5 egg yolks.
  3. Melt 3 tablespoons butter over low heat in a heavy, medium sized saucepan. Stir in the brown sugar and the other half the half-and-half and whisk it till the brown sugar is somewhat dissolved. Heat just to warm, and keep a close eye on it. Too hot, and the half-and-half will curdle and you will have to start over.
  4. Gradually add the warm brown sugar mix to the eggs, whisking constantly as you pour. Pour the entire mixture back into the sauce pan.
  5. Cook over low to moderate heat, constantly stirring and scraping the bottom with a heatproof spatula, until the custard thickens enough to coat the spatula.
  6. Strain the custard into the half-and-half, stirring over the ice bath until cool.* Add the 1/4 cup bourbon, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla, and 1 1/2 teaspoon molasses. Stir till well mixed.
  7. Place in sealed container and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled. Overnight is best — it allows the flavors to really mix.
  8. Make sure your ice cream maker’s bowl is in the freezer so that it’s frozen by the next day.

*Note: I skipped the ice bath because I didn’t have any ice, and it worked fine.

Day 2

Putting it all together:

  1. Pull the caramel swirl out of the fridge and bring it to room temp.
  2. Put together the ice cream maker, turn it on, and pour in your ice cream custard. Freeze in the ice cream maker for 1/2 hour, at least, until it’s nearly doubled in volume and seems as frozen as it’ll get. It will still be soft — home made ice cream needs to go into the freezer for a few hours to really set.
  3. Working quickly, stir in the bacon bits while the ice cream is still in the frozen bowl. In a few smaller containers (I used margarine containers), put down a layer of ice cream. Add a layer of caramel swirl. Add another layer of ice cream, then another layer of caramel swirl, then another layer of ice cream. Put the lids on and place ice cream in freezer to finish freezing.

YOU’RE DONE! Lick the bowls, if you’re not already sick to your stomach from having done just that for 2 days in a row! ;)

20 Comments on “Maker’s Mark Ice Cream with a Maple Caramel Swirl and Candied Bacon Bits”

  1. 1 Neil Kandalgaonkar said at 5:25 pm on March 20th, 2009:

    I wonder if you could fashion a similar recipe for Indian Candy. I’ve only seen this in British Columbia — it is salmon that is dried and smoked, but not a jerky, and it has honey and maple syrup introduced about halfway through the smoking process. Insanely delicious. Maybe pair it with a citrus ice cream or some slightly earthier flavor.

  2. 2 mooflyfoof said at 6:27 pm on March 20th, 2009:

    Oh wow, that sounds amazing! I’ve never heard of Indian Candy before.

  3. 3 Valerie said at 10:02 am on March 24th, 2009:

    you are a brilliant and patient and lovely person for 1) doing all of this and 2) freely sharing the recipe and results!

  4. 4 Marc said at 9:58 pm on March 24th, 2009:

    Saw your recipe from BaconCamp. It’s genius, I had to write about it on my blog:

    Thanks for sharing the goodness!

  5. 5 mooflyfoof said at 11:55 pm on March 24th, 2009:

    Marc – awesome, thanks! I’m glad you liked it! :)

    Can you credit the photo to me and link it to my flickr? Thanks!

  6. 6 Reverend Tex B. Acon said at 12:10 pm on April 10th, 2009:

    I just added you to my Food News Reader. Keep up the good work. Look forward to reading more from you in the future.

    Reverend Tex B. Acon
    WWBD – What Would Bacon Do?

  7. 7 Shoon said at 7:59 am on April 13th, 2009:

    Finally plucked up enough courage to undertake this. This doesn’t look like an easy recipe and i might change the ice cream custard a bit to something a bit easier XD. Seems the important thing is to keep the whisky(or bourbon/scotch, i don’t know the difference…) flavour.

    Anyway, i wanted to ask about the caramel swirl. You didn’t actually mix yours in, instead layering it in between layers of ice cream. Would it be possible to actually mix the caramel in when using the ice cream maker to get nice swirls?

    Lastly, do you know how many litres or servings this makes? (I live in a world that goes by metrics)

  8. 8 mooflyfoof said at 10:06 am on April 13th, 2009:

    Let me know how it goes with simplifying the custard! It was the first time I’d made ice cream using eggs and heat, so I’m sure it’ll still be good even if you just use cream/milk and don’t go through the process of making a custard.

    The thing to be careful with with the bourbon is that you don’t want to add too much or it won’t freeze very well due to the alcohol content. I chose bourbon because it’s sweeter than something like scotch (which generally has a very smokey/peaty flavor) — I thought it would be better suited to the sweetness of the ice cream.

    The reason I layered my caramel swirl is because if you just mix it in using the ice cream maker, it gets totally mixed, i.e. there’s no discrete swirl. *Maybe* if you add it at the very end it’ll work, but I believe I tried that with a chocolate swirl and it really didn’t work. Layers has worked best so far.

    This recipe filled my 1.5 qt ice cream maker, meaning it’ll make about 1.4 liters of ice cream. Servings all depends on how much you like to eat at a time. :)

  9. 9 Shoon said at 3:58 am on April 18th, 2009:

    I tried the recipe and it turned out pretty well! Although due to a slight mishap(which even the 5 second rule couldn’t help) in the kitchen, i didn’t get in quite as much bacon as i hoped.

    I have an idea though for candying the bacon. Chinese restaurants here serve boiled sweet potatoes with piping hot caramel over them which you then dunk into an ice water bath to immediately solidify the caramel and begin eating.

    I’ll probably try this recipe again sometime but i will dip the bacon in small batches into the caramel and dunk them in the bath, that way they won’t stick together. I tried laying my bacon bits out on a plate and then pouring the sugar over them, which failed horribly. The bits are too small, so they don’t catch much sugar, most of it going to the cool glass plate and solidifying.

    I had the same problem as you with my caramel too. It became grainy after i added in the cream. I really think it’s because the milk curdles, my caramel didn’t ever really thicken as much as i hoped. For some reason, maple syrup doesn’t seem to caramelise as much as sugar does. I might try making dark caramel from the sugar first then add in the maple syrup.

    Great recipe all in all though! Very very tasty!

  10. 10 mooflyfoof said at 2:35 pm on April 19th, 2009:

    Awesome, Shoon! Thanks for all the feedback. I’d never heard of the boiled sweet potatoes with caramel thing — that sounds amazing! Definitely let me know how that goes.

  11. 11 mooflyfood » Blog Archive » Quick & “Dirty” Rice said at 8:49 pm on June 16th, 2009:

    […] pork, celery, green bell peppers, chicken livers, and chives. What we did have was a whole lot of bacon grease, the aforementioned Andouille sausages (surprisingly not very spicy), celery seed, and red […]

  12. 12 Liz said at 8:02 am on July 24th, 2009:

    I have some bourbon cherries from a friend that I think would make a great ice cream, but have been putting it off because I haven’t had time to experiment. Thanks for the base recipe here–bacon sounds delicious but I’m trying it with cherries first!

  13. 13 mooflyfoof said at 9:51 am on July 24th, 2009:

    That sounds delicious! Please let me know how it goes. :)

  14. 14 n said at 9:17 am on September 18th, 2009:

    cook the cut up bacon, drain on paper towels. put some sugar on a sheet of waxed paper. Cook the syrup and add the bacon bits to coat. with a slotted spoon (to drain the syrup) scoop the bacon out and immediately toss in the sugar to coat. the sugar dries on the syrup and makes it easier to keep bits separate. the longer it dries out, the better. it’s like making candied rind.

  15. 15 Katie Vonderhaar said at 10:24 am on January 7th, 2010:

    You need to cook the bacon in the oven. This will work much better:

  16. 16 mooflyfoof said at 11:41 am on January 7th, 2010:

    Hi Katie,
    Thanks for the tip, but if you read my whole post, you can see that I tried that initially and it did not work at all. The bacon did not crisp up, no matter how long I left it in and how much sugar I added. I think the moisture/fat content of the bacon I used was too high to bake it and get good results.
    – Heather

  17. 17 mooflyfood » Blog Archive » Bacon Pretzels with Maple-Dijon Dipping Sauce said at 12:14 pm on May 7th, 2010:

    […] Francisco Bacon Camp. I had a little trouble coming up with something to follow my award-winning entry last year, but ultimately decided to just chill out and make something that tastes […]

  18. 18 cdub said at 7:42 pm on July 12th, 2010:

    am i missing something? what do you do with the water for the caramel. i don’t see that it gets used.
    also it was easier to candy whole strips of bacon and then cut them into smaller bits. the first try produced something more like bacon brittle (which was pretty tasty too!)

  19. 19 mooflyfoof said at 11:25 pm on July 12th, 2010:

    cdub: Huh – you’re totally right about the water in the caramel. I’m pretty sure the water goes in at the beginning with the maple syrup, sugar, and salt. Sorry about that – I’ll fix it. Thanks for pointing out the mistake!

    I’ll have to try candying the bacon whole in the skillet. I know when I tried to candy it whole in the oven it really didn’t work (too floppy).

  20. 20 cdub said at 9:45 pm on July 13th, 2010:

    i actually fried up the bacon in roughly thirds (2 inches) then candied. someone was saying that today that they do it in the over with brown sugar, but i think you’re right about floppy. i like they crunch it adds to the texture.

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