Belgian Bacon Pudding Recipe From ‘Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson’

The following is a recipe from “Cognitive Cooking with Chef Watson,” which is the result of a collaboration between IBM, which created the computer Watson, and the Institute of Culinary Education. Using a massive database of recipes and food chemical compounds, Watson created groups of ingredients that satisfied three metrics: surprising, pleasant, and synergy. A team of chefs, including James Briscione, director of culinary development at ICE, and Michael Laiskonis, creative director at ICE, would then create recipes using those ingredients. Here, Chef Watson creates a Belgian bacon pudding.

Bacon-flavored desserts are no longer uncommon, so we chose the popular ingredient as a launching point, in search of more unusual flavor pairings. Watson surprised us with mushroom, cumin, and caraway. The intent here was to present a decidedly sweet flavor, accented with smoky umami notes from the bacon and mushroom and balanced by the acidity of buttermilk. The dried fruits and olive oil-walnut financier provide textural contrast.

Pro Notes and Tips

Although there are no actual pieces of bacon in this dish, its smoky flavor is thoroughly extracted through an infusion process known as fat washing, a technique used by many chefs and mixologists. If ground walnut meal is unavailable, make your own by grinding ½ cup walnut pieces in a food processor with a portion of the confectioners sugar called for in the recipe.

BACON-PORCINI PUDDING

1 cup (225 grams) whole milk
2 cups (400 grams) heavy cream
5 ounces (150 grams) double-smoked bacon, rendered, meat and fat reserved
2 teaspoons (5 grams) dried porcini mushroom powder
¼ teaspoon (1 gram) coarsely ground black pepper
¾ cup (150 grams) granulated sugar
2 egg yolks (about 40 grams)
3 leaves sheet gelatin, bloomed in cold water
¾ cup (85 grams) buttermilk 

1. Combine the milk and cream in a small saucepan and gently heat to about 150˚F (65˚C). Add the warm rendered bacon meat and fat, and infuse for at least 4 to 6 hours, while chilling. 

2. After infusing, strain the cream mixture and discard the bacon and congealed fat solids. Add the mushroom powder and black pepper. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, whisk together the sugar and egg yolks. 

3. Slowly temper the hot cream into the yolk mixture and return to low heat, cooking just to 185˚F (85˚C). Remove from heat and add the gelatin. 

4. Temper the mixture into the buttermilk and blend well with an immersion blender. 

5. Divide among 6 glasses or serving dishes, and chill for at least 2 hours, or until set. 

WALNUT FINANCIER 

7 tablespoons (105 grams) unsalted butter 
½ cup (75 grams) finely ground walnut meal 
½ cup (80 grams) all purpose flour pinch fine sea salt 
½ teaspoon (1.5 grams) baking powder
1¼ cup (140 grams) confectioners sugar 
4 egg whites (about 120 grams) 
2 tablespoons (20 grams) extra-virgin olive oil 

1. Place the butter in a small saucepan and gently cook over low heat to a light-brown color. Remove from heat and reserve warm.

2. Combine the walnut meal, flour, salt, baking powder, and confectioners sugar in a mixing bowl.

3. In another large mixing bowl, manually whip the egg whites just until frothy. whisk in the walnut mixture.

4. Slowly whisk in the warm butter, followed by the olive oil, ensuring complete emulsification. Chill for 1 hour.

5. Pipe the mixture into silicone baking molds. Bake at 300°F until lightly browned and cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes. Cool and break cakes into small pieces.

SPICED DRIED FRUIT COMPOTE

Juice and zest of 1 orange (about 50 grams) 
1 tablespoon (15 grams) honey
Pinch ground cumin
Pinch ground caraway
½ cup (75 grams) golden raisins
½ cup (80 grams) dried figs, stemmed, and coarsely chopped
¼ cup (30 grams) walnuts, coarsely chopped

1.) Combine the orange juice and zest, honey, and spices. Pour the orange-honey mixture over the raisins, chopped figs, and walnuts, and macerate several hours, chilled. 

TO SERVE

Maldon salt, as needed
Confectioners sugar, as needed

1.) Divide the dried fruit mixture among each set pudding and top with torn financier pieces. Garnish with a few grains of Maldon salt and a dusting of confectioners sugar.