“It’s hard to eat just one piece of bacon, one peanut or one little square of chocolate,” write Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama in “Bacon Nation” (Workman Publishing, $14.95). “Combine the three and you don’t have a chance at moderation, so consider yourself warned: If you make this toffee, be prepared to give some away or you will surely eat it all. If you like to make sweets as a holiday gift, add this brittle toffee to your repertoire. While it’s delicious at room temperature, the toffee is wonderful to freeze and then break off a piece after dinner when you want something sweet but you don’t want to commit to a full-on dessert.”
5 slices applewood- or hickory-smoked bacon, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 1/2 cups lightly salted cocktail peanuts, plus 2 tablespoons chopped lightly salted cocktail peanuts
15 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks, plus 1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch-thick pieces, plus butter for greasing the baking pan
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
4 ounces 70 percent cacao dark chocolate, finely chopped
Butter a 15-by-10-1-inch nonstick baking pan or line it with a Silpat and place it on a heatproof surface.
Cook the bacon in a medium-size skillet over medium heat until lightly browned and crisp and most of the fat is rendered, 5 to 8 minutes, stirring often and adjusting the heat as necessary. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to drain, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet.
Blot the drained pieces of bacon with paper towels to remove any excess grease. Set aside 3 tablespoons of the bacon pieces. Combine the remaining bacon pieces with the 1 1/2 cups of peanuts in a medium-size bowl.
Pour the bacon fat from the skillet through a wire-mesh strainer set over a small bowl and then place 1 tablespoon of the strained bacon fat in a heavy deep 3- or 4-quart saucepan.
Add the butter and sugar to the saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until the butter is almost melted, less than 1 minute. Then whisk constantly until the sugar is incorporated into the butter and the mixture is smooth, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the vanilla. Attach a candy thermometer securely to the side of the saucepan and let the butter and sugar mixture boil, whisking occasionally, until it is a deep golden and registers 300 degrees on the thermometer.
Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the bacon and peanut mixture. Pour the hot toffee mixture carefully into the center of the prepared baking pan. Using a butter knife or metal spatula, spread the toffee mixture so that it covers about two thirds of the surface of the pan and is slightly less than 1/2 inch thick. Let the toffee set for about 30 seconds, then sprinkle the chocolate on top, spreading it out with the butter knife or spatula. Sprinkle the remaining 2 tablespoons of chopped peanuts and the reserved bacon evenly over the top of the toffee and then freeze it until firm, about 30 minutes.
Slip the spatula under the toffee to loosen it from the pan and then break the toffee into pieces. The toffee can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to five days or in the freezer for up to two weeks.
Makes 1 1/2 pounds.
From “Bacon Nation” by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama