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from one year to the next

Recipe: bourbon bacon cacao nib brittle

It’s taken me well over a week to try and get this post together and I’m still not certain it will publish in a timely manner. All the while, Neva continues to grow and improve and discover more ways to get into trouble. But at last, as of two nights ago she is now sleeping through the night for just over 7 hours. We are ecstatic, elated, and emerging from our zombie state. If you want more than a weekly update on the pup, your best bet is to follow my instagram feed (@jenyuphoto) which typically has daily pupdates.

We spent the last week in Crested Butte, as it is a much easier environment for Neva to train and learn and have some doggy fun. It’s also important for her to get used to the long car rides. So far so good. She tends to sleep in her crate or chew on her toys when she’s awake. And she only cries when she really needs to get out and potty. Bumpy dirt roads or windy mountain roads don’t seem to bother her much. The plan is to have her graduate from her crate to a dog bed in the car – maybe in a few months.

on the way, we spotted a mama bear and her two cubs

enjoying the snow on a pit stop

sunset in crested butte

Neva has been over a week without accidents, mostly because we have learned to read her behaviors better and schedule her activities when her energy is high. We’ve been able to get her on several trails multiple times and even started playing fetch. She has also met many of the neighborhood dogs who are mostly much larger than her, but incredibly sweet and patient. Neva is growing quickly – mostly legs and body – her head is still hilariously little. Kaweah was the same way as a puppy.

she loves her hikes

neva with wyatt, the giant walking carpet (she loooooves wyatt)

We had a string of cool, rainy days before we finally got a sunny and warm one. Personally, I could enjoy cool and rainy for a long, long time, but we wanted a sunny day so Neva could learn to swim. And she did! At first she ran into the water after her toy and then the bottom dropped from under her feet. Like a trooper, she went from running to swimming. It definitely surprised her (and the water was pretty cold), but she swam a lap and came back to shore. She went in a few more times before we toweled her down and let her warm up in the sun. The second time, she didn’t want to go in on her own, so we stood in the water coaxing her over to us. Luckily, Neva is pretty attached to her humans, so despite not wanting to get cold again, she dove in and paddled out to us. She’s earning her Colorado Mountain Dog stripes!

swimming in the shadow of crested butte mountain

swimming neva!

day 2 of swimming – it wasn’t a fluke

Only after we brought the sleeping, damp puppy back into the house did I realize that it was a year ago when we took Kaweah out for her last swim in Crested Butte. Looking at the photos, I marveled at how big she looked compared to little Neva. Of course, Kaweah is never far from our thoughts and hearts. Half the time when we scold Neva it comes out as “Ka-puppy!” And there are the inevitable comparisons. Neva is better about some things and worse about others. All I can think is how lucky we are to be able to love both of these sweet girls in our lifetime.

When evening runs into night and Neva succumbs to the inevitable drowse that comes from being a puppy, she steps into the nest of my crossed-legged position and curls up affectionately in my lap. Stroking her soft downy head, I notice that her fur is coarser along her back – those signature Labrador guard hairs coming in to protect her fine undercoat. I cannot wait for her to become a dog, and yet there are moments when her puppiness is the best thing ever.

covered in dew from her morning hike

Father’s Day is coming up and my parents arrive in Boulder this week. Between preparing for their arrival and dealing with the puppy, this is my only shot at getting a recipe to you before the weekend. It’s a good one and I even messed it up the first time to be able to bring you the best version. I’ve field tested it with various friends in order to fine tune certain elements. We are talking about brittle, but not just any brittle… I figure anything with bacon, bourbon, and cacao nibs can’t really go wrong.

bourbon, corn syrup, water, bacon, cacao nibs, sugar, butter, flake sea salt, baking soda

crumble the bacon

Honestly, you don’t have to be a dad to appreciate this bourbon bacon cacao nib brittle. I think most people would dig it. I do recommend cooking your bacon until it is crisp. People tended to prefer crisp bacon with their crisp brittle rather than a chewy piece of bacon with a crisp brittle. If you happen to be a fan of the chewy – then by all means, go for chewy bacon.

So the first time I made this, I cooked my caramelized sugar a little too long. I wanted it just slightly burnt. What I didn’t realize was that stirring the cacao nibs into the caramel melted the chocolate out of the nibs and turned the brittle dark. That in and of itself wasn’t so bad, but the flavor was a little too bitter (burnt) for our liking and in the end, it went into the trash. That was a sad day for bacon lovers. The second (and third) time around, I went with a temperature target of 300°F (283°F at 8500 feet) for the brittle which helped remove the guesswork.

combine the sugar, butter, corn syrup, and water

let it boil and turn amber

Once the sugar is ready, remove it from the heat and whisk in the baking soda and most of the sea salt. The sugar mixture will bubble up, but keep whisking until it is thoroughly incorporated. Be careful with melted sugar – it is HOT and it hurts something awful to get any on your skin (because it sticks and burns and makes you cry). The next thing you want to do is switch to a spoon or a heatproof spatula to fold in the bacon and bourbon. If you stubbornly try to use a whisk, it will gum up and harden on the whisk – and that just sucks.

whisk in the salt and baking soda

it will foam up, keep stirring

After the cacao nib disaster, I tried a different method. Instead of stirring the cacao nibs into the brittle, I just sprinkled most of them on the silpat sheet. When the brittle was ready to pour, I poured it over the nibs. Then while the brittle was still quite hot, I sprinkled the remaining nibs over the top along with some reserved bacon and flake sea salt. Gently pressing those into the hot brittle with the back of a spoon or spatula keeps the toppings from falling off the brittle when cooled. This worked really nicely.

my second trial brittle turned out!

broken into pieces when cooled

Just for reference, you can see what the brittle was like when I cooked the sugar too long and stirred the cacao nibs into the brittle. It just didn’t taste very good, even after dipping it in dark chocolate. So you’ve been warned. A candy thermometer is your friend.

the brittle turned very dark as the chocolate melted

broken dark brittle

Lesson learned. I dipped some of the good brittle in dark chocolate and it was outrageously delicious. Jeremy loved it with and without chocolate. I preferred the plain version, but agreed that the chocolate added a nice dimension to the textures, flavors, and visual intrigue. The brittle has a great snap and a little piece goes a long way. Don’t forget to save some for Dad!

for comparison – failed trial on the left and success on the right

these make great gifts for unsuspecting recipients

Bourbon Bacon Cacao Nib Brittle
[print recipe]

butter or vegetable oil if using parchment paper (not needed if using silpat)
2 cups (450g) sugar
1/3 cup (115g) corn syrup
4 oz. (115g) butter, unsalted
5 oz. water
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp flake sea salt, divided into 2 teaspoons and 1 teaspoon
3/4 cup bacon, cooked and crumbled – reserve 1 tablespoon
1/4 cup bourbon
1/2 cup cacao nibs

Line a 17×11 inch baking sheet with a silpat or parchment paper. If using parchment paper, grease lightly with melted butter or vegetable oil. Sprinkle 2/3 of the cacao nibs over the lined baking sheet.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup, butter, and water in a medium saucepan over medium high heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Clip a candy thermometer to the side of the pan to measure the sugar temperature. Continue to cook. The mixture will begin to boil, just keep an eye on it and reduce the heat as needed to prevent it from bubbling over. When it turns golden in color (about 10 minutes) and reaches 300°F (283°F at 8500 ft.), remove the pan from the heat. If you want it a little darker (just a little – too much becomes bitter), let it go a little longer on the heat.

Whisk the baking soda and 2 teaspoons of the flake sea salt into the caramelized sugar. Switch to a heatproof silicone spatula (just don’t use the whisk), and fold in the bacon crumbles (minus 1 tablespoon which you will use for garnish) and the bourbon. Quickly spread the mixture over the cacao nibs on the baking sheet. While the candy is still hot, sprinkle the remaining cacao nibs, bacon crumbles, and flake sea salt over the top and gently press them into the candy with the back of a spatula or wooden spoon. Let cool completely. Break the brittle into pieces. Dip in dark chocolate if desired (it’s really good). Makes just over a pound of brittle.

more goodness from the use real butter archives

pepita brittle peanut brittle macadamia orange brittle bourbon caramel popcorn

14 nibbles at “from one year to the next”

  1. Kristin says:

    A friend just bought us both some nibs and we’ve been wondering what to make with it. This sounds like a stretch for me, but you haven’t steered me wrong yet. I will survey my family & see what they think. Love, love, love the Neva photos. She’s so adorable. And the CB sunset is stunning!

  2. Cindi says:

    I just love your Neva updates. I view her image and read your words often thru [happy] tears – just because I’m such a sap when it comes to dogs. ;-) I am so happy your parents are going to get to meet her! I remember how your Dad loved Kaweah; I anticipate a new love affair will blossom with Neva.
    Oh and the recipe looks yummy, too. ;-)

  3. Sharla Derry says:

    I really love reading what you write. I love your recipes and your straightforward, no-nonsense and logical look at things. You inspire me in many ways. Just wanted to pop in and give you that feedback. You make a difference with your blog, at least for me (and I know many others) … Neva is adorable! Your blog is one of my very favorites that I subscribe to. Go, girl!

  4. Kathya says:

    Love you!! XO

  5. Jack says:

    I don’t have an instagram account… yet. Is it strange that I think I’ll make one just to follow you for puppy pictures?

  6. Hilary says:

    Your puppy is absolutely adorable- I love labs :)
    And your brittle recipe looks delicious! Nice work! :)

  7. jill says:

    She’ll be a well mannered, socialized, swimming, rewarding dog soon enough…enjoy every moment of puppy. They’re so precious. xo

  8. Chef Connie Gordon says:

    I am going to have to make this recipe. Have you tried the Brekenridge Bourbon? It is amazing. I need to try Knob Creek. Oh no, my teenager just saw this recipe and said” MOM! We HAVE to make this now!!” Gotta go, making candy.

  9. farmerpam says:

    AWHHHH! She’s growing so fast, what a cutie! Almost makes me think about adding another pup to our household.

  10. Fanny says:

    How wonderful it’s been to see Neva grow up. Ps. Your words about both her and Kaweah are so beautiful they brought tears. Lots of love xx fanny

  11. Aadra says:

    Hi Jen, thanks for another fantastic recipe! I made this on Saturday night, sans bacon as we’re veg. Your detailed instructions prevented me from burning the sugar. Very, very good. This (cooking + sharing + eating this brittle) helped me get through my first Father’s day without my dad, whom I suddenly lost in March. Thank you.

  12. jenyu says:

    Kristin – I was nervous making brittle the first time, but once you get it down, it’s pretty straightforward and people LOVE it :)

    Cindi – xxoo. Yes, my dad was thrilled to meet her and she loved him instantly (but she loves everyone!).

    Sharla – you are such a sweetheart. Thank you for commenting and a big hug to you xo

    Kathya – XOXO love you too!!! <3

    Jack – ha ha! ;)

    Hilary – thank you!

    jill – I hope so! xo

    Connie – :)

    farmerpam – She really is growing so fast! I'm ready for a big girl dog! :)

    Fanny – thank you, my dear friend. So good to hear/read your voice! xoxo

    Aadra – I'm so sorry about your father's passing. I know that must be so difficult. Lots of love to you and I'm glad the brittle could be of some help xoxo

  13. Beepbird says:

    This recipe was delicious but it stuck to our teeth. If we added more baking soda, do you think it would be less sticky?

  14. jenyu says:

    Beepbird – hmmm, I think by definition, brittle is supposed to stick to your teeth. I don’t think more baking soda would make it less so (just easier to break).

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