Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Infamous Bacon Bread - not suitable for cardiac patients

Bacon bread- need I say more
If you have a prescription for medications such as lipitor, you should probably dose up before reading further. This is not "heart healthy" eating we are about to indulge in. Eating this stuff on a regular basis may actually shorten your lifespan, but you'll enjoy it so much that you probably won't care. This is...the infamous bacon bread.

I've tried several different ways of doing this, but the formula that works the best for me, and delivers the most bacon flavor is actually the most simple. I start with a generic pizza dough recipe- with one slight modification, add a good amount of crispy bacon, and let the bread machine do it's work. That "slight modification" is the real secret to making this bacon bread work.

Bacon just starting it's journey to "Crispy"
The first thing we'll need, is, of course, bacon. I start with 5-6 strips of bacon. We'll want to cook them in the usual manner until they are fairly crispy, and we've rendered as much of that wonderful bacon fat as possible. For reasons that will become apparent later, I strongly recommend cooking your bacon in a pan on the stove rather than on something like a flat-top or in the oven. The best way to get the most out of your bacon is to cook it over medium-low heat- just enough to make the bacon sizzle- and take your time. You'll want to make sure you get as much of the fat to render out as possible, and get an even brown crisp throughout.

Take your time cooking the bacon, and you'll be rewarded with a great crisp
Bacon Grease is the secret
Now comes the secret ingredient. My pizza dough/Italian bread recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of olive oil. The "slight modification" I mentioned lies here. Instead of using olive oil - we will use 3 tablespoons of our rendered bacon grease - this is key - we get the fat content we need for the bread, and we get a background of bacon flavor that will permeate the entire bread. You'll want to measure out your bacon grease and assemble your bread recipe quickly before the bacon grease solidifies. All the froth and tiny bits of bacon scraps in the oil are all part of what makes the bread special. The dark color of the grease will give the finished bread a slightly yellowish tint, which is not a problem at all.

The bread recipe requires 1 3/8 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of bacon fat, 3/4 teaspoon of salt (be warned- the bacon and the grease add a lot of salt- so I recommend reducing the salt to 1/2 teaspoon or less depending on your preference), 4 cups of all-purpose flour, and 2 teaspoons of active dry yeast. Finally, take your 5-6 slices of crispy bacon and crumble them into small pieces. Don't worry if some of the pieces are a little big- the kneading action will help break them up. Add all your ingredients in the order recommended for your bread machine (or combine them by hand in a bowl). If you're using a bread machine, set it to a "french bread" setting with "medium crust" - or whatever your machine's equivalent settings are, and let it fly.

Dough ball, not quite together yet
If you are using a bread machine, you can't just walk away yet. You'll want to keep an eye on it for the first 5-10 minutes until the dough comes together in a ball. Often, depending on humidity and the exact composition of your flour, you may need to add a little water. In the photo to the right- the dough has been mixing for several minutes, but is still crumbling apart. Add about a teaspoon of water, and let it continue to mix for a minute, and repeat if necessary until your dough forms into a cohesive ball. Once you get to this point, you can safely walk away and let the machine finish the job for you.

A good dough ball
If you are doing the bread by hand, more power to you. I'm a bit too lazy to do that on a regular basis. You'll need to get your dough ball to form, then knead steadily for at least ten minutes (or cheat with a stand mixer and a dough hook). Let the dough rise (about an hour) until it doubles in size, punch it down, then knead for another ten minutes. The advantage here is that you'll be able to make the bread in any shape you want, but it requires more effort, and much more precision when actually baking. I strongly recommend consulting a good basic baking book, or similar internet resource before attempting to bake bread manually if you haven't done it before, or are not confident in your ability to produce good results.

That said, a bread machine may not always produce optimal results, but it is consistent. Assuming your yeast isn't past expiration, you should be rewarded with a nicely formed, over-sized loaf of Italian style bread studded with bits of bacon. The bacon grease should make the whole loaf have a nice scent of and background flavor of bacon. I strongly recommend using this bread for grilled cheese, or just for breakfast with a little butter or margarine (go easy on the butter, it's already going to be rich!). It's bread, and it's very indulgent at the same time.

Bacon bread is great sliced for grilled cheese, or by itself with a touch of butter


  1. I cannot wait to make this one!!

  2. Not sure how I missed this one but I've got to try this...

  3. Bacon, IMO, is Way better in the oven, slowly cooked, I agree that much. 350 degrees, 10-12 minutes, flip repeat.