It is official: You are reading an award winning blog. (Or, uh, our recipe won the award, but still!) More so, the award is related to a food item we all have a love-hate relationship with because we can never get enough of its salty, fatty, crispy deliciousness.
After we wrote about baking bacon last week, Kendall happened upon an article requesting more competitors in the Chicago Bacon Takedown, a competition of amateur cooks to create the BEST bacon dish for 250 people to sample at Lincoln Hall. After showing the article to me, we both accidentally shrugged the idea off. The next day, with less than twenty-four hours before the Takedown, the prospect of receiving 15 pounds of no-strings-attached bacon to cook with sounded like a great idea. We e-mailed the guy coordinating the event, promptly started brainstorming while swearing not to get our hopes up and… well, waited.
Luckily, Matt Timms (self-proclaimed “Bacon Overlord”) was waiting with bated breath for our e-mail to arrive in his inbox because we got a reply within just a couple hours. We raced to meet him to receive our magic bacon coupons and by 8pm, a mere sixteen hours pre-Takedown, we had 15 sexy pounds of bacon in our possession.
We had a lot of ideas instantly. Bacon and chocolate have been huge in the past few years (earlier this year I concocted some dark chocolate bacon cupcakes) but we wanted to avoid the expected. When it comes to competing, Kendall and I both take things very seriously. We both want to do things well and both just love to win. (Granted, it seems we may have different means to that end but never-the-less…)
Our brainstorming list included:
– Cookie/granola bars with bacon (ingredients TBD)
– Bacon chili or soup
– Bacon covered truffles
– Grape jelly bacon thumbprint cookies
– Bacon brittle
– Caramel apples with bacon instead of peanuts
– Marshmallow treats with bacon
– Bacon biscotti
Deciding that since apples aren’t exactly bite-size and both the bacon brittle and marshmallow treats seemed too simple for a competition, we settled to combine the three. We set out to make Bacon Candy “Apples”: Apple Jacks marshmallow treats with a bacon brittle candy coating and bacon incorporated in whenever possible. The dessert would be both sweet and salty and it would be served on a sucker stick for full candy apple mimicry. Presentation was not to be overlooked.
Along the way we ran into a few unforeseen issues. First of all, we wanted the Apple Jacks to be gently crushed so that they could be formed into balls (or “apples”) more easily but they apparently do not do well under pressure. Also, once we started coating the “apples” in the bacon brittle coating we decided the the proportions and viscosity were not exactly to our liking, so we 86ed the brittle. In its place we made a bacon-infused caramel sauce- our candy “apples” became caramel “apples”.
We made a pretty little sign out of brown craft paper that we hung on an old projector screen. Needless to say, we were the only competitors with an obnoxiously large sign displaying our item’s name and I still had to say “These are Bacon Caramel ‘Apples'” a few hundred times to the tasters. (Followed by: “They are Apple Jack marshmallow treats with a bacon-infused caramel sauce on top.”)
We had such a great time . We were sleep deprived and jacked up on sugar from tasting the marshmallow treats all night to get the flavors just right. (Plus, I could not stop putting bacon in my mouth. I couldn’t.)
Two sets of winners were announced: People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice. We placed 2nd in the Judges’ Choice category, which equipped us with a brand new 10″ Anolon Chef Clad skillet, Microplane ribbon grater and a Wüsthof paring knife. The only difference between first and second place, besides the acclaim, was a 6-month supply of Hormel Black Label bacon. Fortunately, we still have seven pounds of bacon left so I think we’ll be okay for a while.
At the awards ceremony Matt gave out some pretty rad certificates of participation to all the competitors, which will soon be displayed in our kitchen.
LUCKY FOR YOU: Tomorrow we will be posting the recipe we developed for these delicious Bacon Caramel “Apples”. See you then!
UPDATE: Here it is… Bacon Caramel “Apples”
– Since we entered this contest the day before it really felt like a timed-competition—it reminded me a lot of participating in the 48-Hour Film Project… but with food and (a little) more sleep.
– We tried to make our presentation a little more active by drizzling our caramel sauce and some additional bacon bits on the “apples” at our table during the event.
– It was interesting and a lot of fun to taste everyone else’s bacon creations even though we were both kind of sick of the smell of bacon by the time we got to the event. My favorite was the A.V. Club Chicago’s “Sow-moas” that beat us for the 1st Place Judges’ Choice.
– You can read Matt Timms recap of the Chicago event here: CBTD: Mindmelter Deluxxxe
– If anyone wants bacon, we have a lot!