Bacon Wrapped Dates w/Goat Cheese and Rosemary Almonds

There is this restaurant that I just love in Aliso Viejo, CA called Opah.  It’s kind of my “go to” place for good food and great lemon drop martini’s.  You say “hey let’s meet for drinks after work” and I say “Opah”! Usually when we go there we are in time for happy hour and it never fails that we’ll order their bacon wrapped dates. Hence this post was inspired.  I haven’t been to Opah in a few weeks so I was somewhat “jonesing” for these little morsels.

I decided to give my own twist to my favorite happy hour appetizer  bacon wrapped dates w/goat cheese and rosemary almonds.  It’s a mouthful I know, but so are these luscious flavored dates with a subtle taste of goat cheese and a crisp Marconi almond in the middle.  The drizzled with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Did I mention that the almond has rosemary and sea salt all over it too?!

Is your mouth-watering yet?

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed with Goat Cheese and Rosemary Almonds

Did you know there is an International Bacon Day?  Yep, that’s right. How cool is that?  It’s the Saturday before Labor Day Monday. Click here for more info:  This idea of an International Bacon Day was what spurred my interest to revive my love of these little goodies.

They take a little time, but they are well worth the effort.

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Chocolate-Bacon Cupcakes

My friend at work Robb loves, loves, loves Bacon and for Christmas his granddaughter got him a book called I Love Bacon.  It’s a collection of recipes from some of America’s favorite chefs all having bacon in them.  It’s amazing that so many things can have bacon in them. Yay for bacon!

This is a pretty labor intensive recipe, but I think you will really enjoy its complex tastes that come through with each bit.  Make sure that you use a real maple syrup and not that kind that you use for your pancakes on Sunday morning – it will make a difference.  Also, watch your brown butter cooking, it can quickly turn to “burnt” butter – which I think mine might have gone a bit to far.

Chocolate Bacon Cupcakes

Maple-Brown Butter-Bacon Frosting
8 slices 1/4-inch thick bacon, diced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) butter
1/4 cup milk
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons crème fraîche (I used greek yogurt instead)
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon salt
3 cups confectioner’s sugar

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup GF all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed golden brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons old-fashioned oats

To make the frosting:
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, cook the bacon until crispy, about 10 minutes.  Using a mesh sieve, drain the bacon bits by pouring the rendered bacon fat into the bowl of a mixer.  Set the bacon pieces aside.

In the same sauté pan:
Melt the butter and cook until it turns brown and gives off a nutty fragrance, scraping the bottom of the pan occasionally so the butter doesn’t burn.  When the butter is dark and begins to burn, immediately remove the pan from the heat, scrape all of the browned bits loose, and transfer the contents to the mixing bowl with the bacon fat. Refrigerate the bowl until the butter is cold. Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, mix together the milk, cream, crème fraîche or yogurt, vanilla and maple syrup; set aside.

Attach your mixer with the paddle attachment.  When the browned butter is cold, cream it on medium speed with the salt until blended. Add the confectioners’ sugar and continue to cream at medium speed until fluffy, about 8 minutes. Slowly add the milk mixture and continue mixing until smooth and homogeneous. Refrigerate until cold.

Preheat over to 350 degree F. Lightly butter a standard 12-cup muffin pan or line it with cupcake lines, and set aside.

To make the cupcakes:
Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Put the 1/2 cup of butter, the sugars, and salt into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream on medium speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. With the machine running, add the eggs, one at a time, and mix until well incorporated, about 2 minutes.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, turn the speed to low, and add one-quarter of the dry ingredient mixture. When no trace of flour remains, add one-third of the buttermilk and mix until incorporated. Continue evenly alternating the flour mixture and the buttermilk, ending the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix in the chopped chocolate and oatmeal. Divide the batter between the 12 muffin cups; each cup should be three-quarters full. Bake until a tester stick comes out clean – approximately 25 minutes.

When the cupcakes are completely cool, fluff the cold frosting until soft and spreadable but not runny. Place about 3 tablespoons of frosting on top of each cupcake, then sprinkle on about 1/2 teaspoon of bacon bits. Serve immediately or refrigerate the cupcake until the frosting is firm.

**recipe was adapted/copied from I LOVE BACON by Jayne Rockmill**

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