“We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.” (Who can name that movie?)
Today’s recipe is one that Buddy the Elf would go crazy over – maple gelato, made with a full cup of syrup. In this case, it was Virginia hickory syrup, which is made from roasting the bark of hickory trees. The particular variety I used was made with brandy and vanilla bean, and I scraped the seeds from the vanilla bean pod into the custard before freezing it. The result was a lightly speckled appearance and a hint of vanilla. This gelato is sweet, with the delicate flavor of the syrup running through it. So if you’ve ever thought “Man, this syrup is so good I could drink it,” this recipe is for you.
Since I can’t resist the combination of maple and bacon, I took this recipe a step further and topped the gelato with candied bacon before serving. Yes, I know bacon in dessert applications is a trend a lot of people aren’t fond of, but I happen to think it’s delicious. To make the candied bacon, I place the bacon on a baking sheet and sprinkle with brown sugar. Then I top it with parchment and another baking sheet and bake at 325º for 20-30 minutes. Baking it low and slow yields perfectly crisp bacon. The salty-sweetness of the candied bacon pairs perfectly with this sweet and creamy gelato.
In a medium heatproof bowl, whisk the syrup and egg yolks until the mixture is combined and noticeably lighter in color. Combine the milk and salt in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat. Whisking constantly, slowly add ½ cup of the milk to the egg mixture.
Pour the warmed egg mixture into the saucepan and add the cream. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Pour the custard through a fine mesh strainer set over a large bowl, preferably one with a pour spout. Stir in the vanilla bean seeds, if using.
Allow mixture to cool at room temperature for about 20 minutes, then cover and refrigerate overnight. Freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. If desired, top with candied bacon.