I’ve done something. Changed something. Opened some sort of magic box, some secret portal to a new world. And now that I’ve glimpsed the other side, I rather doubt I’ll be the same again.
It all started with an innocent breakfast suggestion. On my recent winter escape to Oregon, all we wanted was a place to eat one misty Wednesday morning in Portland. Instead, we ordered a plate of food that, rather than fading from my memory as most meals do, has haunted my daydreams ever since.
It was praline bacon. And within moments of eating it, I knew that I wanted to, nay, that I must! try to recreate it at home. This weekend I finally had the time, the health, and the daylight. It took four failed attempts, but I finally found the balance I was looking for. And the best part? It’s so absurdly, ridiculously easy.
Obviously, we start with bacon. Then we have pecans, maple syrup, brown sugar, a little salt, and some cayenne pepper.
THAT IS ALL, PEOPLE.
Instead of pan-frying the bacon, I baked mine. It helps the bacon stay flat (necessary for topping with sugary pecans later) and the excess fat drains into the pan below. I may actually start making all of my bacon this way.
While the bacon cooks, chop up some pecans. I’ve seen some versions where the pecans are food-processed into oblivion, but I prefer a larger cut. Smaller than a rough chop but bigger than a fine chop, does that make sense? About the size of a tooth? (Is that gross?)
I’ve got cookies on the brain today. And in the fridge, actually. Today my sister and I are baking the sparkly, classic sugar cookies we’ve been baking (and eating) every Christmas for most of our lives. Each year seems to have its own theme though. There was the year of 1000 fish when we found a tiny fish-shaped cookie cutter in our eclectic mix of shapes. And the year of multi-cultural gingerbread people. And one year when I believe we used the smallest cookie cutters we could find to create a gazillion bite-sized stars, trees, and bells.
I’ll always love my mom’s classic sugar cookie recipe. It tastes like tradition and family gatherings and anticipation for what Santa might put under the tree. But I must admit: these cookies, based on a recipe I’ve been eyeballing for a while, are definitely worth repeating. And while I only make classic sugar cookies at Christmas, these maple-rockin’ ones qualify for year-round baking.
The stars of this little cookie show are maple syrup, nutmeg, and sea salt. I’m not certain I’ve ever tasted cookies so magical and complex in flavor before. I also added a bit of cinnamon to bring even more seasonal flavor to the mix, but the combination of sweet maple and the occasional punch of salt make each bite a pleasure.
I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.
Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.