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Put the 100g flour, the sparkling water, yeast, thyme and a good pinch of salt in large bowl and whisk to a smooth batter. Cover the bowl and set aside to rest for 1 hr. Meanwhile, slice the onion into 0.5cm slices and pop out the layers into rings. Place in a bowl with the vinegar, sugar and a good pinch of salt, and toss until well coated. Cover and set aside for at least 1 hr. (If you want to prepare ahead, the batter and onions can be made up to 8 hrs before cooking, then chilled.)
To make the bacon mayo, break the crispy bacon into pieces and pound to a breadcrumb texture using a pestle and mortar. Add the paprika and mayonnaise, mix well, then transfer to a bowl and chill until ready to serve.
Pour enough oil into a large pan to come halfway up the sides – it should be at least 10cm deep (make sure you have a lid close to hand in case the oil catches fire). Heat the oil to 170C, using a cooking thermometer to keep the temperature consistent. Drain the onion rings, pat dry on kitchen paper, then toss in the 2 tbsp flour. When you’re ready to fry, make sure you have a plate lined with kitchen paper to hand. Give the batter a whisk, adding a splash more water if it has become very thick. Dip each onion ring into the batter to coat, then drop into the hot oil. Cook the onion rings in batches of 6-10 (depending on the size of your pan) – make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan or the onion rings will stick together. When crisp and golden, scoop the onion rings out and transfer to the plate to drain. Sprinkle each batch with a little salt as they come out of the frying pan. Serve straight away with the mayo for dunking.