Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Sesame Brittle

Happy Easter, Happy Spring! It’s sunny out, and I’m barefoot and loving life today!

As a gift this Christmas past, Mom got me a 2-year subscription to Bon Appétit. It’s such a treat to pull a magazine out of the mailbox every month–especially one with gorgeous food inspiration! This Easter day I made these Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes inspired by a recipe from the March 2012 issue. I’ve been thinking about that recipe ever since I laid eyes on the photo and realized those sweet orange potatoes were topped with, basically, bacon candy. That’s just too fun.

Mine looked like this.

So while the potatoes were roasting I cooked up the bacon and set about making the “brittle,” which consists of bacon, drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds. Perhaps I didn’t cook the mixture quite long enough, or the BA writers didn’t explain the process in enough detail–I ended up with sugary candied bacon rather than shiny glossy brittle. But I don’t mean to say at all that the recipe was a flop-oh, no-it was still a grand success! While the texture of the topping is slightly off from what the recipe intended, it’s still an ingenious sugary bacon topping–with added toastiness from the sesame seeds–that makes an exquisite accent flavor for sweet potatoes.

It’s a hit! (that’s a song)

The flavors are great, the textures are fun, and the presentation is just so nice. Go ahead, fancy up your sweet potatoes. And if your brittle turns into candied sesame bacon, fear not, for you have not failed. Just take a bite.

Easter in food, 2012. There in the middle is the only Easter egg I saw today.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes with Bacon-Sesame Brittle

serves 6 (6 potato halves)
adapted from Bon Appétit

for the brittle:
4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1/3 cup sugar
1 tablespoon sesame seeds (black or white)

(These are the Bon Appétit directions.) Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook chopped bacon in a medium skillet over medium heat until the fat is rendered and the bacon begins to crisp. Drain bacon and reserve drippings. Return bacon, 1 tablespoon of the drippings, sugar, and sesame seeds to the same skillet. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until sugar turns the color of milk chocolate, about 5-7 minutes. Transfer mixture to prepared parchment-lined baking sheet and use a spatula to spread out evenly. Let cool, then break into small shards. (As aforementioned, mine wouldn’t spread out into a glossy single layer, but I spread it as best I could. When it cooled I chipped it into smaller pieces.)

for the potatoes:
3 medium sweet potatoes, washed
1 egg
2 tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
dash cinnamon

garnish: 1 green onion (green parts only)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Place sweet potatoes (whole) on a foil-lined baking sheet. Roast until tender, 45-55 minutes. Let sit until cool enough to handle. When cool, slice potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop most of the flesh from each half into a bowl, leaving 1/4 to 1/2 inch layer of flesh inside skins. Mash potato flesh in the bowl with the egg, butter, ginger, salt, and cinnamon–stir until smooth. Spoon or pipe filling back into reserved skins on the baking sheet. Bake potatoes until the tops are lightly puffed and golden brown, 30-35 minutes. To serve, top with bacon-sesame brittle and super thinly-sliced green onion ribbons.


Happy Christmas/Chocolat!

Merry Christmas, Happy Days!

Chocolate bark is popular this year according to my blog perusing as of late. I lived in France for one Christmas season, and this combination of chocolate accompaniments, discovered at a festive chocolate exposition, won my heart: Pistachio, Almond, and Candied Orange Peel. So this was one of my Christmas treats this year!

I melted dark chocolate (70% cacao) in a double boiler, spread it thinly in a pan lined with wax paper, then topped it with those delicious things (I used salted nuts, by the way)–I let it harden in the fridge, then cut it into squares. I also made a batch with milk chocolate. Such scrumptious and perfectly balanced bites of indulgent goodness!
This stuff is special.

Incredible Edible Gifts!

A little parcel of distinctive chocolate, my Cinnamon Marshmallows, and these excellently flavorful chewy molasses ginger cookies found on a blog called SavorySaltySweet made its way to some special friends!

Happy Happy Holidays, go make some love–edible or otherwise!

Candied Orange Peel

Remember those Orange Slice candies? Candied orange peels are a bit like those, but more orangey-wonderful. They’re a tasty addition to cakes, cookies, and candies. They are candy on their own, and Matt thinks they’d be nice as after dinner ‘mints’, a sort of fresh and cleansing digestif. I think they are a delight to make–so pretty and fragrant, plus the candying process yields a yummy by-product: lovely, citrus-scented orange syrup! One recipe that results in two delicious and functionally different products? Oui. Oui, oui, oui. Eat some juicy oranges, and don’t throw away those peels!

Candied Orange Peel
yields about 2 1/2 cups of candied peels

5 large thick-skinned oranges (like Navel or Valencia)
water for boiling
4 cups sugar
1 cup water
sugar for coating

Wash oranges thoroughly with warm water. With a knife, score the oranges, cutting through the peel and pith, but not the fruit. I made 5 cuts down the length of each fruit, yielding 6 slices of peel from each orange. With your fingers, slowly pull each slice of peel+pith from the orange. Once the peels are removed, slide a knife across the pith side to remove most of the white pith from the orange part of the peel (a bit of remaining pith is ok!).

Cut the peels down to your desired size, then put them in a pot and pour in enough water to cover the peels. Bring the pot to a boil over high heat, then remove the pot and drain the peels of water. Repeat this 1 or 2 times (this reduces bitterness). I did this boiling process 3 times. Next, stir the sugar into the 1 cup of water in the saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook 8-9 minutes, until a candy thermometer reaches 230-234 degrees F. Add peels and adjust heat to retain a simmer. Simmer peels about 45 minutes or until they become translucent. Swirl the pan to move the peels around instead of stirring them with a spoon. Drain the peels, and reserve the syrup*. Roll the peels in sugar, then lay them out on wax paper for a few hours to cool and dry. Store candied peels in an airtight container.

peels after cooking

sugar coating

*You can use that syrup as a fragrant sweetener for teas, cocktails, and sodas!

**And I’ll be back soon with a recipe idea using those orange peels. Hint: I learned this at a French chocolate fair!

Mulled Wine (in Ginger Sugar-Rimmed Glasses!)

I dedicate this post to Abby. Abby’s great. Abby’s spunky, warm, and smart. Abby and I mulled over many poems together during college English major days. Now Abby wants my mulled wine recipe.

This mulled wine is like the German favorite, Glühwein, which I found during travels has also become quite popular in wintry France (vin chaud). Mulled wine recipes are forgiving and flexible. I’ve made versions of this with cranberry juice and pineapple juice. I’ve used orange and lemon slices. Sometimes I add sherry, sometimes not. And you can adjust the amount of sugar to your tastes (or leave it out altogether!). In it’s simplest form, mulled wine is warm wine with spices. Start there and create a festive beverage you and your friends will crave each winter!

Here’s the recipe for the mulled wine I’m enjoying tonight (in yoga pants, with knitting needles), but it would be equivalently excellent at your upcoming Holiday party (in fancy velvet dresses and ties or tacky festive sweaters!).

In whatever atmosphere you choose to sip it, this winter drink will make you warm and undeniably fuzzy.

Mulled Wine
serves 5-6

6 cups dry red wine
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sherry
8-10 whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (or to taste)
1 orange, sliced thin

Put everything in a large pot, and heat over medium-low heat for 1-2 hours so the flavors can blend. Don’t let the mixture come to a boil. Serve in mugs or heat-proof glasses, perhaps with a piece of orange slice to garnish. *Don’t forget to fish out those little cloves before serving!

Sugar looks lovely on a dark mug too!

For a Ginger Sugar-Rimmed glass or mug, mix 1/4 cup white sugar with 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger in a bowl. With a slice of orange, carefully moisten the rim of your glass, trying to get an even rim. Dip the rim into the bowl of ginger sugar, then shake off the excess. Now, that’s pretty and sparkly and easy, and just a bit sweeter with every sip!