Chocolate is so overdone when it comes to romance, don’t you think? Well, okay, maybe not. But this Valentine’s Day I was looking for something just a little “out there.” A surprise for my sweetie with all his manly favorites—cheddar cheese, bacon and sugar.
I know this sounds like an unlikely combination, but I must say (And I’m the vegetarian, remember?), these little unconventional thumbprints won Don’s heart as they disappeared right off his plate. The trick is not to treat them like a cookie but more like a savory pastry. Then that sugary pop in the center creates wonderful balance and contrast against the salty bacon and rich cheese. The back-of-the-bite bit of heat coming off the jalapeños just romanced the pants off him! (TMI, sorry.)
These little crumbly delights—which I have nicknamed “The Man Cookie”–are also quite local: Jalapeño jelly curtsey of The Family Garden in New Douglas, IL; bacon compliments of Papa’s Pasture in Staunton, IL, and Hatch Pepper Cheddar Cheese from Marcoot Jersey Creamery in Greenville, IL. Love it when it’s local!
So before the romance slips entirely away this month, I suggest you whip up a batch of these easy, cheesy Man Cookies for your valentine…even if she’s not a man.
- One-quarter cup unsalted butter, softened
- One cup finely grated cheddar cheese (Any variety will do, but Don loved Marcoot’s Hatch Pepper Cheddar.)
- One large egg
- One cup all-purpose flour
- One-quarter cup tiny bacon crumbles (See the comment following the recipe.)
- One-quarter cup jalapeño jelly or jam. (Any good-quality pepper jelly is a candidate here, and I’m guessing a good peach or mango jam would work if you don’t want the heat.)
- Have all ingredients at room temperature. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and cheese. Add the egg and mix until combined. Add the flour, mixing just until combined; then, remove the bowl from the mixer and finish the final strokes by hand, adding in the bacon crumbles as you go.
- Using tablespoon-size pieces of dough, form one-inch balls. Place the balls on the prepared baking sheets at least one inch apart. Make an indent with your thumb in the center of each ball, taking care to “remold” a bit if the dough cracks (The bacon makes this a little challenging.). In the end, you should have 14 to 16 little “dough cups.”
- Place the baking sheets in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or up to several hours. You want the dough cups well chilled so that they retain their shape while baking. You will still need to re-indent them a bit once out of the oven, in my experience.
- When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Remove the cookies from the frig to bake, one sheet at a time. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes, until the cookies begin to turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and immediately re-indent the center, if necessary. Allow to cool a few minutes on the sheet; then, transfer to baking racks and cool completely.
- When completely cooled, fill each cookie center with a quarter-teaspoon of jelly.
Note that the prep time does not include the time it takes to chill the dough.
About the bacon
When I started planning this unusual cookie, I decided I’d fry up a pound of bacon on my griddle to a really crispy finish and break off the best crumbles—the pieces that were not fatty and could be crushed—to set aside. You are looking for what would resemble the product “Bacos,” if that rings a bell, which really it shouldn’t for anyone trying to eat a semi-healthy, real-food diet.
Don had little trouble deciding what to do with the rest of the bacon, but he did have trouble leaving my super-crunchy crumbles alone. So guard your bacon crumbles!
Is this Dessert?
Well, it can be. But when I sampled one—and I did, vegetarian that I am—I realized I’d be much more likely to put them out as a special treat on a brunch buffet. They really do have a nice flavor balance, and sitting alongside some scrambled southwest eggs and a steamy cup of coffee, I’m sure they’d fit right in.
If you make some, share how you served them!