Salted Chocolate Bark with Maple Bacon and Ancho Chile. Does this need explaining? Think Mexican mocha meets maple-drenched bacon. Sweet. Salty. Scrumptious. All you french fry milkshake dippers out there know what I’m talking about. This recipe is for die hard fans of chocolate covered pretzels and proscuitto-wrapped melon. But we’re not going to stop there. We’re gonna add a pinch of ancho chile and cinnamon, just enough to make you go “Hmmm. What’s that spice?” Why not? Life’s short.
Maybe my sudden hankering for chocolate is due to my sweetie being gone for over 2 weeks now and counting. He’s working back in Illinois, not far from where he grew up. He fixes dents in cars. When it hails golf-ball sized hail, there are hundreds, or thousands of dents on every exposed car. It hailed there in late May. Which equals him being gone and leaving me to eat all the cherry tomatoes and sweet corn by myself.
So I’m driving around in my car today flipping radio stations. I pause when I hear the silky smooth voice of a male country troubadour. He grabs me. Not literally. I found out later it was Tim McGraw so I wouldn’t have minded. Anyway, he’s singing a sentimental song about our crazy, fast-paced world…but Meanwhile Back at Mama’s the porch light’s on and supper’s on the stove and all this feel good stuff. I’m hooked on the hometown fantasy. The second verse rolls around and he’s joined by this angelic female voice (duh, Faith Hill) so I get reeled in a little more. Then there’s a simple instrumental solo which crescendos into the final verse: “Oh I miss a little dirt on the road, I miss corn growing in a row” (this is where I completely lose it, my sunglasses are sliding off my nose). It continues, “I miss those small town roots, walking around in muddy boots, the sound of rain on an old tin roof.” I was a blubbering fool by the last chorus. Matt comes from a farming community, in fact his dad is a corn farmer. We also planted a garden this year and I harvested the first ear of sweet corn while he was “Back at Mama’s.” Absence certainly does make the heart grow fonder. This is where the chocolate comes in…
Speaking of Mama’s…my Mama was picking my brain about chocolate recipes the other day after she watched a video about all the additives food manufacturers put in chocolate. The typical chocolate bar is but a mere semblance of the original cacao bean from which it comes. The cacao bean is an antioxidant-rich superfood which unfortunately gets transformed into a sugar-laden, lecithin, lactose, and artificial ingredient-filled block of junk food. For this recipe I used 2 unsweetened 100% cacao baking bars. If you prefer, you can use 70% cacao, but usually these have added sugar and lecithin. Or you can use one of each. Hey, I’m not judging.
After searching around on the internet for some chocolate bark inspiration, I found this recipe from Guilty Kitchen. What I love about this recipe is the way the bacon is cooked low and slow. I modified it by using a little less bacon and adding the chile powder.
Enough gabbing. I’m getting hungry.
To start, preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Arrange 6 strips of bacon on a wire baking rack and set it on a baking sheet (to catch the drippings). I don’t have a wire rack so I used my vegetable grill basket and set it on top of a glass baking dish. Hey, whatever works. Use a spoon or a basting brush to cover the bacon in half of the maple syrup. Flip the bacon over and pour the remaining half (of the 1/4 cup) on the other side.
After about an hour it should come out looking like this:
Sweet golden brown perfection. Okay, now don’t eat it all…save some for the recipe. Allow the bacon to cool completely. You may even want to put it in the fridge for a half hour. I find putting it in the fridge also helps keep me from eating it all. Once it’s cooled, chop it up into bite size pieces. Separate a handful of bacon from the bunch and dice it even finer (we’re going to use this like magic bacon fairy dust on top).
If you’re the fancy type with the wire baking rack, you probably also have a double boiler, which you could – and should, use to melt the chocolate. Since I’m improvising, I’m going to make my own double boiler using a glass bowl that sits nicely inside a pot. Fill the pot with water just full enough so that it barely touches the bowl. Bring the water to a gentle simmer.
Go ahead and add your two bars of chocolate to the bowl. Hey…quit nibbling.
Add the final tablespoon of maple syrup to the chocolate and stir continuously while the chocolate melts using a rubber spatula. Once the chocolate is melted, remove from heat and add in your spices, stirring until thoroughly mixed.
Stir in the bite-sized bacon pieces, saving the handful of magic bacon fairy dust. Now spread the mixture onto a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the remaining fairy dust on top and a pinch or two of sea salt. Put it in the freezer for 30 minutes until hardened. Remove it from the freezer and break into pieces.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Now comes the really hard part. Try to limit yourself to one piece a day.
I said try…