Smoky tomato soup with maple-candied bacon

This is Week #3 of my 2011 cooking challenge! Click here to view all recipes from this challenge. All recipes created for this challenge come from the Food & Wine Annual Cookbook 2010.

This is the first recipe I have created for this challenge that I didn't love. Not at first, anyway. With a few small changes, it went from being just okay to delicious!

I will write the recipe exactly as it is written in the cookbook and I will also tell you my suggestions. If you enjoy soups with a heavy orange flavor, make the recipe as it is! If you do not (I personally do not), then heed my thoughts.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Arrange 8 slices of thick-cut applewood-smoked bacon over the parchment/foil and bake for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Drain the oil and sprinkle the bacon with 2 tablespoons of maple sugar or light brown sugar.

Bake for 8 more minutes, or until the bacon is glazed. Set aside.

Chop 1 small onion and mince 3 cloves of garlic. My three-year-old stole my beautiful new head of garlic from the fridge and misplaced it (ahhhh, can't wait to find that!), so I used the 2 lone cloves I could find in the drawer and a dash of garlic powder instead.

In a large saucepan, melt 2 tablespoons butter and 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil over medium heat.

Add the chopped onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.

Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of tomato paste and cook, stirring, until darkened, about 2 minutes.

Stir in:

3 tablespoons granulated sugar (I suggest using 1-2 tablespoons)

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon grated orange zest (I suggest omitting this entirely)

1/2 teaspoon piment d'Espelette (I was not able to find this ingredient. Heat-wise, it is often compared to paprika, so I added a dash more of that instead.)

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Cook for 30 seconds. Add 1/2 cup of dry rosé or white wine and bring to a boil.

Add 2 15-oz. cans chopped tomatoes, with their juices (I recommend using 3 cans).

Bring to a simmer and remove from heat.

Stir in 2 cups of water..

..and 1/4 cup fresh orange juice (I suggest using half of the recommended orange juice and replacing the other half with water).

Add 3 tablespoons of sour cream (I ended up using double this amount. I also added about 1/2 teaspoon of dried basil at this point.)

Working in batches, puree the soup until it is smooth. Return the mixture to the saucepan and season with desired amount of salt and pepper. Reheat and ladle into bowls. Top with the candied bacon, chopped into bits.

Don't be scared away by my initial thoughts. With the revisions I made, it turned out to be a delicious soup! My three-year-old even ate it, served over saltine crackers.

I should mention that the cookbook lists the "ready in" time as 30 minutes. It took more like 1 hour for me, from start to finish.

Click here for a printable recipe!