Recipes

Taste Contradictions: Pigs in a Sugar Blanket

By Anonymous Paul on 25 November, 2009

Taste Contradictions: Pigs in a Sugar Blanket 

Combining the sweet and salty has been around longer than you probably reckon. If you think about it, people have been eating figs and cheese for ages. There’s teriyaki sauce (which is basically soy sauce and sugar), sukiyaki, honey glazed ham, kettle (pop)corn, melons and prosciutto, chocolate covered pretzels, barbeque sauces and meats, saltwater taffy, kecap manis (or sweet soy sauce), Thai spicy salt and sugar fruit dips, as well as crispy salted beans atop kao niew mamuang (sticky rice and mangoes). There’s the Snicker’s bar and, of course, champorado with tuyo. And these are just from top of my head. The list definitely goes on and encompasses more cultures and cuisines. 

The sweet and salty combination is not as contrasting as say, the sweet and sour pairing. The salt is just there as an accent. Only the tiniest amount is needed to create a whole different spectrum of taste. Bakers and confectioners have always added a tiny pinch of salt in ice cream, chocolates and other baked goods for that rounder flavor. You don’t necessarily taste the salt; in fact, the salt enhances the sweetness. It’s more complementary than contrast, really; in the proper amounts. For an easy experiment try adding a pinch of salt to your favorite fruit juice (even frozen margaritas) and taste the difference.

As an ode to this flavor combination, I take on a candy/savory project. I basically get some chopped roasted almonds, oven crisped bacon, caramelized sugar, a pinch of salt and togarashi to come up with a bacon-almond brittle.

For the first batch, I mixed in a scant amount of baking powder to the caramel mix to incorporate some air into the candy. The theory behind was to give the brittle a more crumbly texture; a friendlier crunch. Which made the final product a bit on the opaque side with the magic ingredients poking out. You never really know what you’re eating till you bite into it.

For the second batch, I decide to give a rougher chop to the nuts and bacon and omitted the baking soda. The result was a thinner, harder and translucent candy that was more picture-pretty. It shattered like glass, of course in a good way. And you could see more of the almonds and bacon bits set in the sugar.

Both batches were good but I liked the non-aerated version better. You get more of the toasty flavor of the roasted nuts mingling with the smoky meat bits amidst the background of the crispy caramelized sugar. There’s this wonderfully porky nose (yes, a porky nose) that surprisingly isn’t so in-your-face. And the togarashi just gives this nice little heat at back of the throat at the very end. The flavor sensation covers the entire palate; a veritable party in the mouth.

Definitely can’t be too good for you, but in a word, its addictive.

Bacon Nut Brittle  

  • 2/3 cup raw almonds (or any type of nut), toasted/roasted till aromatic then rough-chopped.
  • 250 grams bacon. Preferably a leaner kind. You’ll be throwing away most of the drippings anyway. Oven baked or pan fried to a crisp, drained on paper towels then crumbled.
  • 1 Tbsp.of reserved bacon drippings
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon rock salt, sea salt or kosher. Adjust according to saltiness of the bacon used.
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda (optional)
  • Sprinkling of togarashi or dried pepper flakes (optional)

Grease a cookie sheet with the reserved bacon drippings. Sprinkle and mix togarashi with crumbled bacon, if desired.Put the sugar and water in a saucepan over high heat and stir till combined. Once homogenous, give the pan a swirl once in a while but do not stir. You can wait for the mixture to reach about 350°F on a candy thermometer but generally you can eyeball it till the sugar turns a caramel color. Remove from heat.

Working quickly, add the nuts, bacon and salt (and baking soda, if desired) to the caramel and stir. Immediately pour over greased sheet and spread out. Allow to cool for at least 20 minutes. (At this point you can also opt to sprinkle some salt on the still pliable mixture so the salt grains stick)

After cooling, break the candy into shards. Heed the call of the glistening treat and pig out.

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  • NOVEMBER 26, 2009 5:21 AM

    psychosomaticaddictinsane said...

    interesting!

    i wonder what sweet stuff can be paired with the awesome lechon cebu! :)

    -
    IYA

  • NOVEMBER 27, 2009 2:27 AM

    anonymous paul said...

    now that i think about it, maybe a crisp fried spam chip brittle would work as well.

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