We should probably just call December “Bourbon Month on Wholefully,” because if you’ve been paying attention, this is my third bourbon-spiked recipe this month. Apparently, when I think of Christmas, I think of bourbon. You can blame the fact that I live 30 minutes from Kentucky (and that I was born there), or, you can just blame it on the fact that I love me some holiday cheer.
It’s interesting, because I actually don’t drink much bourbon, but I do love cooking with it. It adds such a rich flavor to foods. If you’ve never cooked with bourbon before, I wouldn’t say the end result tastes boozy (well, unless you add a lot). It’s more of a caramelly warm taste—like, literally, it tastes warm. Like those chocolate ice cubes (remember those?) but the opposite.
I’ve been talking a lot about chewy cookies over the past week, because those are my favorite kind of cookie, but I haven’t forgotten about you folks who enjoy a good tender, fluffy, soft batch cookie. I hate to say these are “cakelike” but I actually don’t love cake all that much (I know, weird, right? I don’t like donuts either.), but these do have a little bit of a cake-y quality to them. They’re kind of the texture of those soft-batch sugar cookies with the bright-colored frosting you get in the bakery section at your grocery store. Fluffy and tender, with a bit of chew. Even I, quite possibly the biggest fan of ooey gooey chewy cookies ever, love these cookies.
So, I’ve managed to make it nearly 300 words without mentioning the big ole elephant standing the corner over there—THERE IS BACON ON THESE COOKIES. I know, that sounds crazy, but the little bit of salty richness is so wonderful with the deep brown sugar flavor of these cookies.
This isn’t the first time I’ve seen bacon in cookies. At my old job, we used to have a highly competitive cookie contest at the holiday party each year. After winning Best in Show two years in a row (*dusts shoulders off*), I was disqualified from entering ever again and named a judge. My first year judging, one of my coworkers baked us a cookie with bacon in it. His execution was a bit off—the bacon was soggy and the cookies were a bit overdone—so he didn’t win the big prize, but the originality won him the award for Most Creative Cookie. And I socked his idea away in my noggin for future use.
Putting bacon into sweet things has become quite trendy, and you’ll find a number of bacon cookie recipes out there (I even saw one that calls for using 1/2 cup of bacon grease in the cookie—that seems a little too bacon-y for me, but what do I know?). I hope the weirdness factor has diminished now that the market is saturated with this wonderful sweet and savory combo.
You really should try it. I promise it doesn’t taste like pork. There is just enough of the bacon sprinkled on top to add a really pleasant salty, rich flavor to help balance out the mega-sweet cookie. If there are vegetarians in the crowd, you could of course leave off the bacon on a few of the cookies. Because I reduced the salt content in the dough to account for the salty bacon, you might way to sprinkle the vegetarian versions with a bit of coarse sea salt to help balance out the sweetness. You can just call those “Salted Bourbon Brown Sugar Cookies” and people will be equally impressed (you might even be able to win a cookie contest).
I rolled each of these cookies in brown sugar in addition to the brown sugar inside. It adds a really beautiful sparkle to the outside of the cookie, and some of the sugar also caramelizes and gets nice and crunchy right around the edge of the cookie. So when you first take a bite, you get the nice crunch of cooked bacon and caramelized sugar, and then inside you get chewy, soft, bourbon-tastic cookie.
A quick note about cooking with bourbon before I hand over this recipe. In my neck of the woods, there is a lot of to-do about bourbon. You can order bourbon flights at local restaurants. You can go on bourbon tasting tours. There are bourbon tasting classes and workshops. There are bourbon bars. And bourbon pairing dinners. Bourbon. Bourbon. Bourbon. I’m sure that some of my local friends (and bourbon lovers) will disagree with me on this, but I think you should buy cheap-o bourbon to cook with.
Now, of course, for drinking and mixing, you want to find a good quality bourbon you love and stick with it, but for baking? Dude. Go with the bottom shelf stuff. Maybe my palette just isn’t refined enough, but I honestly can’t tell a difference between the baked goods I make with our (not very cheap) bottle of good bourbon and the stuff I make with our plastic bottle from Larry’s Bourbon Factory ‘n’ Stuff. Save your good stuff for sipping. Keep a small bottle of the not-so-good stuff in a cabinet somewhere for baking.