In our apartment the first time I tried to make caramel sauce is referred to as Caramelgate because in the course of one night I tried, and failed, to make caramel sauce three separate times. It just wouldn't come together, the sugar would caramelize but then I would add the cream and the two parts just wouldn't combine, the caramel would solidify and the cream would pool all around it, pitifully.
I had to scrub the hot sticky caramel out of my beloved green frying pan three times, the solidified sticky mess seeming to mock me as I scrubbed as it angrily. There may or may not have been tears after the third attempt, mostly from S because without caramel sauce dessert was just apple slices (who am I kidding, of course it was me who cried over caramel).
Eventually I mastered the art of the caramel sauce (the cream was too cold and I was pouring it too fast), but no matter, the caramel in these amazing custards is a much simpler recipe than my usual caramel sauce, an incredibly simple one in fact. It's a very slightly modified take on Ree Drummond's Caramel Sauce, and it's delightfully easy and super rich.
If you've never made candied bacon you are in for a treat. Coating something in brown sugar and cooking it until it caramelizes pretty much makes any food ten times more awesome, but bacon especially benefits from this treatment, the becomes crisp and sticky on the outside and the bacon/brown sugar flavor combo is unspeakably heavenly.
Pretty much every component of these custards is rich. The custard is thick and deeply chocolatey, the caramel is dark and complex, the bacon is sweet and salty and sticky. Basically, what I'm telling you is these are heavenly little bowls of chocolate-caramel-bacon paradise. They're a little labor intensive, but definitely not difficult, and the end result is more than worth the effort. The custard base is a modification of this chocolate custard. This made about 5 puddings in my little ramekins.
1 packed cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons brown sugar
2 large egg yolks
5.3 ounces (1 bar) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, plus shaved chocolate, for serving
Pinch of salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 Cup heavy cream
1-2 Tbsp Powdered Sugar
3 strips bacon
1/3 Brown sugar
Start by making the caramel sauce. Add the cream, butter, and brown sugar in a saucepan and combine over low heat, whisking until the butter melts and the brown sugar breaks up into the milk, then turn heat to medium and cook 5-7 minutes, whisking continuously, until sauce thickens some, keep in mind it will thicken further in the fridge so you don't need to cook it until it's super thick, think real maple syrup thickness, not honey. Remove from stove, pour in heat safe container and refrigerate while you make the custard.
Separate eggs from yolk, my method is to crack the egg, separate the halves with the contents in one, then shift the yolk back and forth from one eggshell half to the other, letting the whites fall into a bowl beneath. Place yolks in medium bowl, set aside.
In small sauce pan bring the brown sugar and milk to a light simmer and mix until sugar dissolves. Slowly whisk the sugar-milk combo into the egg yolks, whisk until combined, then pour mixture back into sauce pan, and return to medium heat, whisking until it thickens slightly- about 3 minutes.
Remove mixture from heat and whisk in the chopped chocolate, whisk until chocolate is melted, then add butter and whisk until well incorporated. Pour mixture into medium sized bowl and place in fridge for 45 minutes.
After 45 Minutes remove bowl from fridge and drizzle about 1/2 the refrigerated caramel sauce into the bowl of custard while slowly mixing to create a caramel swirl. Spoon or pour into custard dishes or ramekins and refrigerate 45 minutes-1 hour.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees fahrenheit.
While custard cools in fridge, coat the bacon slices with brown sugar on both sides until well covered. I press the sugar in a bit with my fingers. If you have parchment paper, cover the bottom of a jellyroll pan with it, otherwise, place sugar coated bacon directly on jelly roll pan.
Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until sugar is caramelized and bacon is cooked through. Remove from pan while hot and cool on plate or wire rack. The sugar will solidify while cooling making the pieces nice and crispy.
When well cooled, chop bacon into small pieces to top custard with.
Place 1/2 Cup heavy cream and 1-2 (depending on your sweetness preference- I like just 1) tablespoons powdered sugar in mixing bowl, or bowl of your stand mixer, and beat with electric hand mixer, or stand mixer until whipped cream holds soft peaks.
Top ramekins with a bit of caramel, a sprinkle of candied bacon, a dollop of whipped cream, a caramel sauce drizzle, and another sprinkling of candied bacon. Devour immediately with immense joy.
I want to make about six more batches of this pudding and eat them all myself right now.