A while back, I got it in my head to run a dessert special featuring a chewy, cream-filled oatmeal cookie sandwich, the likes of which you might remember, individually wrapped in cellophane, nestled in your elementary school lunchbox.
Considering the possibilities thereof, I decided, for reasons now obscure, to tinker around with bacon.
I began by incorporating crunchy, cooked chunks of bacon into the classic Quaker oatmeal cookie dough recipe before baking, as one would with nuts, raisins or chocolate chips. In the finished cookies, the bacon flavor all but completely disappeared.
I tried adding more of the bacon bits. The flavor remained far too subtle.
With a good bit of bacon fat leftover from cooking all those chunks, I decided to substitute some of that fragrant, flavorful lipid for a portion of the butter in the cookie recipe. The flavor of the bacon was certainly stronger in the finished product, but the texture and appearance had changed. The cookies that had been soft and chewy and relatively flat made with butter, had become harder and crunchier and had spread less during baking when made in part with bacon fat.
Looking for just a little more bacon flavor, I decided to omit butter from the recipe completely and use bacon fat alone. But that, I assumed, would leave me with an even harder, crunchier, more mounded product—not at all the proper beast for an oatmeal cookie sandwich.
Since molasses imparts moisture to baked goods, and I was already using a bit in the recipe, I decided to add a touch more. (At the restaurant, because our storage space is so limited, instead of using brown sugar, which we would have to order and store by the case, I substitute white sugar with a little molasses.) That helped the texture a bit, but not quite enough.
Because molasses is so strongly flavored, I couldn’t add more without obscuring some of that hard-won bacon flavor. Instead, I turned to honey. Another natural baked-good moisturizer, I could add a healthy dose of a neutral honey to the dough without obscuring any bacony goodness. That did the trick.
For the filling, I didn’t want to overpower the bacon flavor, but I didn’t want to just add something creamy and sweet for the sake of itself either. To draw out the nutty, richness of the bacon, I made a buttercream, substituting brown butter for more traditional unsalted butter.
I served the finished sandwiches in pairs, beside a maple cow (think milkshake, made with maple custard and ice instead of ice cream—we still have no ice cream machine or freezer), and they were a hit.
Since then, I’ve played with the cookies some more, alternately adding raisins, chunks of chocolate or walnuts; filling them with peanut-butter buttercream; serving them with vanilla-bourbon cows. Regardless of the accent flavors, the bacon remains the focal flavor, an update for a lunchbox classic.
About the author: Amanda Clarke is pastry chef at No.7 in Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. During her time away from the restaurant, she writes, tests, and develops recipes between walkings and feedings of her two dogs and husband.
- Yield:25-30 sandwiches, 4-5 dozen cookies
- 1 cup, plus 2 tablespoons bacon fat, room temperature* (224 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups sugar (300 grams)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 4 1/2 teaspoons molasses (30 grams)
- 4 1/2 teaspoons honey (30 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (180 grams)
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups quick oats** (240 grams)
- 1 1/2 cups bacon bits* (~85 grams)
- 1 cup raisins, chocolate chips or walnut pieces – optional
Preheat oven to 325°F. With a hand held or stand mixer, cream fat with sugar until creamy and light. (N.B.:You will not be able to achieve the same level of fluffiness in this step with bacon fat as you would with a recipe using butter or shortening. Trying to do so will result in frustration and, possibly, a greasy, over-worked—e.g. melted—mess.)
Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, molasses and honey, and beat to incorporate.
In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and salt, and whisk to incorporate. Add this mixture to the butter mixture and beat to incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and beat briefly to insure that mixture is homogeneous.
Add the oats, bacon bits and raisins, chocolate chips or walnuts, if using. Mix until well distributed.
Drop dough by the heaping tablespoonful onto parchment- or Silpat-lined baking trays, leaving 1 1/2 or 2 inches between cookies. Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating tray once during baking. Cool cookies completely before filling.
* It takes about a pound of bacon, give or take, to acquire the prescribed quantities of fat and bits. Cut the bacon into small pieces and cook over low heat, allowing plenty of time for the fat to render out before the pieces color too much. Pour bacon into a fine mesh sieve set over a heat-proof bowl. Once the fat has drained into the bowl, set aside and allow to cool to room temperature. Turn bacon bits out onto paper towels. Bits and fat can be stored in the refrigerator for up to a week before use, just be sure to bring the fat to room temperature before making the cookie dough.