Holiday Party Recap: Maple-Bacon Marshmallows and More

Every December, my husband Tom and I host a holiday open house that we cater ourselves; Tom takes care of meats and I handle sweets and h'ors doevres. I always find the menu planning to be a challenge. I like to offer some longstanding favorites that guests expect to see year after year (people seem to be particularly attached to sweet and salty brownies), but it's also an opportunity to try a lot of new recipes. And of course I face practical constraints on my time, storage space in the refrigerator and freezer, and reheating capacity on the stove and in the oven during the party.

I still hear guests reminisce about the bacon caramel corn I served at our party a couple of years ago, so I decided to try a different confection with bacon this year -- Maple-Bacon Marshmallows. You start out by making some candied bacon -- rubbing bacon with a mixture of brown sugar and cinnamon, laying it on a metal rack on top of a sheet pan, and baking it in the oven until caramelized. The candied bacon is a treat in and of itself -- wonderfully crisp, salty, sweet, and smoky.

Once the bacon is cooled and chopped, you make the marshmallow by adding a hot mixture of sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, water, and salt to gelatin that has been softened in water. You beat until the marshmallow is white and fluffy, add some cinnamon, and fold in the bacon bits. Then you pour the marshmallow into a pan, dust it with a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch, and let it sit for at least 6 hours before cutting.
I had chopped the candied bacon into fairly coarse bits, and I found that it was difficult to cut through the bacon cleanly when I sliced the marshmallows. As a result, there were little bits of bacon sticking out from marshmallows here and there. But that's my only complaint. I couldn't taste much maple flavor (I did use dark amber Grade A syrup), but the marshmallows were very light and springy, and the touch of cinnamon with the candied bacon was incredibly flavorful and interesting. They were a big hit, and I would definitely recommend the recipe to anyone.

A few guests asked me for recipes during the party, and it occurred to me that it might be useful (not just for guests, but also for me!) to recap the recipes in a post for easy reference. So I've included a comprehensive list below. I would say that biggest hits were the sweet and salty brownies, macarons, hazelnut-Nutella cookies, Nutella-chocolate-espresso-Kahlua mousse, bacon jam, goat cheese puffs, and the leek confit (which I served on the parmesan onion puffs). Baked goods are obviously my strength, but the savory category was also particularly successful this year!

Baked goods:
Chilled desserts: