Ok, so this was supposed to be a Fathers Day post, but alas life got away with me. I actually created this beauty of a recipe with Ben in mind. He wanted me to call this post "Gentlemen Prefer Blondes". Blonde brownies of course. I mean, obviously, Ben prefers his women brunette....ahem! Ok, I'll admit, I was blonde ONCE. Somewhere between my "Run Lola Run" fire engine red hair and my dread-lock days. Ahhhh to be young again........
Annnnnd I digress. So about these brownies! Blonde brownies are actually a favorite of mine so making these "for Ben" was a no-brainer. And adding candied bacon just seemed like the natural thing to do. Right?!
Today I'm introducing a magnificent new ingredient for my recipes: Maple Sugar. I haven't used it all that often in my recipes up to this point as I have stuck mostly to honey, but that is most certainly going to change. (I did use it once in these delicious "Meringue Kisses", but that's about it.)
What is Maple Sugar?
Maple sugar is a granulated sugar made from 100% pure maple syrup. I exclusively use Coombs Organic Maple Sugar. Not only does it taste great, but it is one of the most reasonably priced brands....and especially so if you buy it from the right source (follow the link).
At first, organic maple sugar can seem expensive but really, ounce for ounce, it costs about the same as a good quality maple syrup that you might purchase through someone like Tropical Traditions or other reputable sources. *Important note: A good quality maple syrup/sugar from a reputable source is a MUST as it can be laden with pesticides and chemicals from processing.*
Another reason that the cost is deceptive: Maple sugar is much more concentrated and sweet than regular sugar so you tend to use less of it per recipe. Coombs recommends 1/2-3/4 cup as a replacement for 1 cup regular sugar. Personally I find it varies a lot from recipe to recipe.
I purchased my first 6 oz bag of maple sugar from Whole Foods, but you will find it much more affordable if you buy it in larger quantities though Amazon.
*Urban Poser Philosophy Moment*: I don't worry too much about cost when it comes to desserts because I don't eat these things every day. I am concerned about beauty, quality and deliciousness, so when I do choose to indulge.....I'm going to make absolutely sure that it's worth every stinking bite! And of all the things I ever made, this brownie is seriously worth it!
Maple & Candied Bacon Blonde Brownies
Makes 1 - 8 brownies, depending on how you cut them.
2 1/4 cups Honeyville Blanched Almond Flour
1 cup (6oz)Maple Granulated Maple Sugar (get it here or at Whole Foods)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped
3-4 pieces of bacon
About 1/3 cup maple syrup
Maple Candied Bacon
Make the candied bacon before starting the brownies as it will need to cool down before breaking it up into tiny pieces for the topping.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
On a parchment paper lined rimmed cookie sheet, lay out the strips of bacon. You want the rim so that your bacon grease doesn't run down into oven and start a grease fire. (Not that I would know anything about that)
Using a pastry brush, sweep a generous amount of maple syrup over each piece of bacon. You could also sprinkle maple sugar instead of using syrup, but I find that it takes less syrup and it goes on smoother and faster.
Bake in the preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from oven and flip the bacon over. Brush the other side with maple syrup and return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes or until dark and caramel-y. Watch the bacon closely toward the end, it burns fast. Times will vary from oven-to-oven (most basic ovens don't actually read temps accurately). For best results use an oven thermometer.
Remove from oven and cool. I like to place my bacon on a plate and chill in the freezer. This both speeds up the cooling process and makes them easier to cut in to small pieces.
Cut or break the bacon into small pieces. If they are too large the brownies will be difficult to cut later.
Grease and line a 8x8 inch cake pan with parchment paper, leaving flaps on two sides of the pan for easy brownie removal. You don't have to lay parchment paper both ways, just one set of flaps will suffice.
In a blender or coffee/herb grinder, pulse the maple sugar a few times to make it a finer grind.
Using a small sauce pan over medium heat, melt the palm shortening/ghee till it just becomes liquid. You don't want it to be hot, just liquid. Remove from heat and let cool.
While the fat is cooling, combine the almond flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.
Now add the eggs and vanilla extract to the liquid shortening/ghee and lightly beat together.
Combine the egg/fat mixture with the almond flour mixture, mixing till combined and there are no lumps in the batter.
Transfer the batter to the prepared cake pan and smooth the batter out as best as you can.
Sprinkle the bacon and pecan pieces evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake at 375 degrees for 22-25 minutes.
When they're finished cooking, remove the pan and allow the brownies to cool. Slice into squares and then watch in amazement as they vanish mysteriously from your counter top every time you look away. (at least that's what happens around my house.)