Today is the last post from our Chopped Challenge 2013. And what better way to celebrate and spread some cheer than with desserts. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as much as we enjoyed the event. I have to say this last round was just as delicious as the rest and was by far the kids’ favorite. Our ingredients for the dessert basket came to us from Dawn at First Look, Then Cook – Mangoes, Pretzels, Bacon and Agave Nectar.
Today we’ll start with the winner of the challenge, the Mango Bread Pudding with Candied Bacon. Having recently been to New Orleans, recently had this recipe and this one on my mind, I knew I wanted to go the bread pudding route. So Miss A broke some bread for me.
Then we chopped up some mango and some sour dough pretzels and tossed them in with the bread. Next we mixed the remaining ingredients together including half and half, milk, eggs, vanilla, agave, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg and poured that over the bread mixture. We added the mixture to our baking dish and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before baking. The pudding bakes for 45 to 60 minutes at 350F.
While the pudding baked we worked on our candied bacon. I tossed some bacon, about 1/2 pound, with agave nectar. I then laid the rashers flat on a parchment-lined baking sheet and sprinkled them with brown sugar. After placing down another sheet of parchment, I topped it with another baking sheet to keep the bacon flat. The bacon then baked for about 25 minutes at 350.
Once cooked, I chopped (and sampled, and sampled again) the candied bacon and tossed it over the finished bread pudding. The bacon is irresistible. I mean some ridiculously good stuff! I also whipped up a little sauce to pour over the individual servings. The sauce includes butter, agave, whipping cream, dark rum, orange juice, sugar and vanilla. This dessert seriously hit the spot, at least for me.
The bread pudding was 4 spoons for Mike, Mr. N and I. Miss A says it was 0 spoons. She was seriously swayed by the other dessert, plus bread desserts (and breakfasts) really aren’t her thing. The basket ingredients all worked very well together, even the pretzels managed to blend right into the pudding adding a touch of saltiness to the mix. That said, the pretzels don’t add much, so next time I’ll probably skip them. The candied bacon though – you can bet I’ll be making that again. It’s a great topping for a bread pudding and a bit reminiscent of our favorite maple bacon biscuits.
Now onto the boys’ dessert. Mike and Mr. N opted for an ice cream inspired dessert and whipped up Mango Sherbet Pops with Bacon. If the contest had been for creativity alone, this would certainly have taken the cake this round. Having never attempted a homemade ice cream before, Mike was a bit nervous. That said, he’s a clever guy and figured something out pretty quickly. He and Mr. N blended together a cup of chopped mango, a can of sweetened condensed milk, a small amount of sugar and a can of Blood Orange San Pellegrino.
He then put the mix into a stainless steel mixing bowl and stuck it in the freezer for about six hours, stirring to keep it smooth every 1 to 2 hours. For the dessert challenge, Mike cooked some agave coated bacon and placed a strip in the bottom of the muffin tins. Next he spooned out some of the sherbet into the muffin tins and added a pretzel stick to the center of each one to create a popsicle.
This was Miss A’s favorite dessert. Her spoon rating for this round was off the charts – 8,023 spoons. I think that’s her highest ranking yet. Mike gave his dessert 3 spoons and Mr. N and I each came in with 2-1/2 spoons. The sherbet was delicious, but the rest of the ingredients just didn’t quite work cohesively. That said, the boys’ sherbet was outstanding and may have beat out the bread pudding on its own. It was a certified hit with both Mr. N and Miss A, and was also devoured by my niece that came to visit. So while, we don’t necessarily recommend making the mango pops, the sherbet we’ll be making again.
Wow! I can’t believe that’s the end of our Chopped Challenge this year. We’re already looking forward to next year. The kids keep asking if they can be on their own team together. I’m not quite sure they’re ready for that just yet, but I have no doubt they’ll beat us one of these days. I mean just imagine these two together someday!
I mentioned a celebration at the start of our post…well, the last snoring mango from 2012 has officially been laid to rest. It has been a particularly challenging chapter of our lives. While some days were harder than others, it certainly tested us in ways that I never could have imagined. But…it’s over. And…we made it! I knew 2013 was going to be a good year! I can’t even begin to describe in words how proud, amazed and grateful I am for my marriage, our kids and our life. It wasn’t always easy, but we came together, grew stronger and the happiness, relief and peace that has been restored in our lives is indescribable. A moment really does change everything.
So with that being said, I’m going to take the next month to breathe. I’m going to relish in positivity and just flat out enjoy life. This isn’t a permanent break by any means, just a short break. We’re going to do some traveling, spend some time with friends and family and of course be working on our French Toast Madness event. In the meantime, we’ll post some pics of what we’re up to, some recipes we’re working on and I think even revisit a few of our past worldly cooking adventures. Then by the 1st of April we’ll be back with our first recipe from our next cooking around the world adventure – Thailand!
For my fellow bloggers, I will still plan to pop-in to your blogs when I can in the next few weeks, albeit a little less frequently. But don’t worry, I’m sure you’ll still all be inspiring us and making your way to our kitchen table! And hey – if anyone has any good suggestions for traditional Thai food we should try, we’re all ears!
And if you’re up for the challenges:
Or bring a scoop of summer to the table: Mango Sherbet