This is where it started to get real, people. I tried tuiles and florentines, with bacon added. Neither of those attempts worked out quite right. So I thought, "What about meringue cups?" I was worried about the greasiness of the bacon not working with the meringues, but it actually did work. The main thing is to cook the bacon until it's really crispy and blot out as much of the grease as possible before chopping it up.
From this photo, you can see how well-cooked the bacon was. After I cooked it, I drained it on paper towels, chopped it, then put it on paper towels again and pushed out as much of the grease as I could.
Anyway, I first tried it using maple sugar. It tasted great, but when Matt said he was going to use salted caramel ice cream, I had to switch course, because the maple sugar gave it a toasted brown color and beige + beige = unappealing visuals. Remember, we eat with our eyes first. So, I went back to a traditional meringue recipe using regular, granulated sugar. These turned out great, except for them sticking to the pan I used. Trying to make a nicer cup shape, I turned my mini-cupcake pan over and used that as a form. Unfortunately, the bottom side of the pan isn't non-stick like the inside (it was Pampered Chef, so I thought it was coated all around). So, version number two turned into bacon meringue crumbles.
The third try, I wasn't taking any chances. Piped circles on parchment paper it is! I made them small, about 2 inches in diameter, to be eaten in a bite or two. When you're tailgating, you do not want to mess with a lot of eating utensils. To scoop the froyo into the cups, I used my smallest cookie scoop (1.5 inch diameter), which was perfect.
Here's the final result:
Why yes, that IS crumbled bacon on top. Crazy, you say? Crazy Delicious! They were a big hit, but unfortunately I only had about 2 dozen of the little meringue cups. I had actually made three batches of the dang things (as noted above), but by the time I got everything right, I was so tired of making meringues (and has so many egg yolks to figure out what to do with), I was just done. I try to do something different each year, but these bad boys might have to make another appearance, just so more people can have a taste.
Bacon Meringue Cups Filled with Salted Caramel Frozen Yogurt
3 egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar (if you happen to have super-fine granulated sugar, use that, but the regular stuff will work, too)
1/2 cup bacon, cooked crispy, drained well of grease, cooled, and chopped very fine
2 pints salted caramel frozen yogurt or ice cream
extra bacon bits (optional)
Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees (F). Line 2 large baking sheets (11x17 inches) with parchment. On the parchment, draw 2-inch diameter circles. Turn parchment over so the pencil marks are face down (you should still be able to see them through the paper).
Beat the egg whites until soft peaks form (about 2 minutes on high speed). Gradually start adding the sugar, about 2 teaspoons at a time, letting the sugar mix in before you add more. This should take about 2 more minutes. Beat whites about another minute until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks.
Gently fold in the bacon bits.
Put the meringue into a piping bag. Tip: I stand my bag up in a tall glass and fold the top part over (see photo). It makes it a lot easier to fill the bag. You can use an actual tip, but I just used a disposable bag and snipped off the end about an inch up from the bottom.
Starting in the middle of a circle, pipe a spiral out to the edge of the circle, then build up the sides (piping about 2 other circles on top) to form a bowl. Repeat for the other circles.
Place baking sheets in the preheated oven and bake meringues for 2 hours. They should be dry to the touch on the outside, but not browned. Turn off oven and leave the meringues in the oven for another hour.
Remove the sheets from the oven. The meringues should feel dry and hard, and they should peel easily off of the parchment. If they aren't dry, then turn the oven on again to the lowest setting (on my oven that was 170 degrees F), return the meringues to the oven and let them sit in there for another 30 minutes, then turn the oven off. Keep them in the oven with the door closed for another thirty minutes. They can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for one day, but you should really finish them off after that, because of the bacon. :-)
To serve, fill each meringue cup with one scoop of frozen yogurt, then top with more bacon crumbles, if you like. You can make the cups ahead of time, and you can scoop out the ice cream ahead of time, but you can only put this together just before serving, otherwise the meringues will get soggy.
Makes 2 dozen.
P.S. As a variation, you could just drop these by teaspoons and bake them as meringue cookies, maybe even sandwiching them in between with some melted dark chocolate. With the failed meringues (the ones that got stuck on the muffin pan), I stirred them into brownies (with chocolate chips and marshmallows), crumbled them on top of an ice cream sundae, and made Frankenstein's Monster Cookies (peanut butter oatmeal cookies with smoked peanuts and almonds, dark chocolate chips and bacon meringue crumbles). More about those later. :-)