OMG. Each year, my friend Bill has a themed birthday party. This year’s theme was “Gnome if you want to”, a steal off “Roam if You Want To” by the B-52’s. Gnomes are said to be subterranean and have become very popular garden items. You may remember The Smurfs, from Saturday morning cartoons, (blue gnomes) who lived in mushroom houses, right? So, Bill ordered Candy Cap mushrooms online from lifegourmetshop.com and asked me to make cheesecakes with them for his birthday.
To be quite honest, I had never heard of these precious nuggets. They came dried and with directions to reconstitute them and had the faint smell of maple syrup. Of the limited number of recipes online, some called for the ground, dehydrated powder, but since I was making four cheesecakes, I thought it best to reconstitute them and placed them in the food processor.
I chose to make one of the few recipes I could find online, along with two variations of Ina Garten“s fabulous cheesecake recipe with the mushrooms added to the mixture. I started by making the graham cracker crust.
While that was baking, I made the cheesecake filling. Let me add that at this point the kitchen smelled like maple.
I placed them in the oven and began making the next one. I am not a fan of maple, and 30 minutes into the cooking process, the entire house reeked of maple syrup. In fact, my house smelled that way for over a week. They tasted fantastic, and even after refrigeration, the aroma of maple filled Bill’s house the night of his party. Very tasty, but very aromatic.
I couldn’t resist adding candied bacon as a topping. Reminded me of a Sunday breakfast with pancakes and of course syrup, eggs and bacon. I think was the party favorite.
The next cheesecake, I decided to make a ginger snap crust and topped it with Livesay Orchard Porter Peach Butter and toasted pecans. That was my personal favorite.
I made a plain cheesecake and a variation of a recipe I found on Skilletdoux. I changed the crust to chocolate wafer cookies, and added a caramel topping. The cheesecake mixture was the same, made with tangy goat cheese.
Again, of the three, I liked the Porter Peach butter version, but that candied bacon was so good too. Try making one of these or a regular cheesecake for your next special dinner. It’s not as hard as you would think. Below is the recipe from Skilletdoux. I simply omitted the sauce and used caramel and make a chocolate wafer crust.
- 2 C. Chocolate graham cracker or wafer cookie crumbs
- 6 Tbsp. melted butter
- ½ oz. dried candy cap mushrooms
- 24 oz. cream cheese
- 8 oz. chèvre or similar soft goat cheese
- ¾ C. sugar
- 4 eggs
- 1 fresh porcini mushroom
- ¼ C. light corn syrup
- 2 oz. dried chanterelle mushrooms
- ¼ C. butter
- 1 C. sugar
- ¼ C. orange juice
- ¼ C. heavy cream
- ½ C. chopped fresh chanterelle mushrooms
- 1 C. chopped pears
- tart off by preheating the oven to 350° and setting the cream cheese and goat cheese out so they come to room temperature. Butter up a 9" spring form pan, then mix the graham cracker crumbs and melted butter, and press them into the bottom of the pan. Cook the crust in the oven for ten minutes, until the crust is dark golden. Set the pan on a wire rack to cool while you work on the cheesecake.
- Toss the dried candy caps in a spice grinder and grind them into a powder. Alternatively, you can use a mortar and pestle, but you want to make sure you end up with a very fine powder. Using beaters or a stand mixer (or a wooden spoon, if you're masochistic), beat together the cream cheese and goat cheese until smooth. Then, add the candy cap powder and sugar, and beat in the eggs one at a time at low speed, just until evenly incorporated. You don't want to overbeat here, or you could end up with cracks in your cheesecake later.
- Give the sides of the spring form pan one more shot of butter, then pour the cheesecake mix into the pan. Carefully wrap the bottom of the spring form pan with aluminum foil so that water won't get through. Then place the spring form pan in a roasting pan and fill the roasting pan with warm water about halfway up the sides of the spring form pan. Transfer the whole thing to the oven, still at 350°, and cook until the cheesecake is ready. It'll probably be about 50 minutes, but it can vary widely depending on your oven, the heat of the water, the shape of the roasting pan, etc. etc. You'll know it's finished when the outside is set, but the 2-3" in the center are just a little jiggly. Remove the pan from the oven, lift the spring form pan out the water, and set it on a wire rack to cool. Run a knife along the inside of the pan to separate it from the cake, then when the cheesecake has come to room temperature, transfer it to the fridge and let it chill for at least six hours, preferably overnight, to set.
- While the cheesecake is cooling, you can prep the porcini bark. Slice the porcini mushroom into paper thin slices, as many as you plan on serving. Hope you have a sharp knife. Or a truffle shaver. (Doesn't everybody have a truffle shaver?) Lightly oil a cookie sheet covered with aluminum foil, then lay out the mushroom slices and brush them, both sides, with the corn syrup. You probably won't use it all. Bake the mushroom for about five minutes, remove the pan from the oven, flip them, and bake for about another five minutes until they are a golden color. They'll crisp up as they cool. Store them in an airtight container until you're ready to use them.
- To prepare the sauce, start with the dried chanterelle mushrooms. Combine them in a small dish with half a cup of very, very hot water, and let them steep for about half an hour. Remove the mushrooms, squeezing any liquid into the dish, and discard them. If there appears to be any grit in the liquid, strain it through a fine strainer or paper towel. Put the chanterelle liquid in a small pan, bring it to a simmer and reduce it down to two tablespoons. Combine this reduction with the orange juice (freshly squeezed, please) and keep it hot.
- In a separate pan, heat the sugar over medium-low heat for about ten minutes, until it's golden brown and caramelized. At first, it'll look like nothing is happening. Resist the temptation to turn up the heat. When it goes, it'll go quickly and if the pan is too hot it'll burn. Stir the sugar to ensure it's evenly melted, then add the mushroom/orange mixture and stir again combined. Add the butter, the cream, the sautéed chanterelles and the chopped pears and continue cooking for about ten minutes, stirring frequently, until the pears and mushrooms have softened slightly and the sauce comes together. Don't be afraid to turn the heat down if it looks like it's cooking too fast. There's no rush and you don't want burnt caramel.
- To serve, slice up the cheesecake, stick one or two pieces of the porcini bark in the top, drizzle with the hot caramel sauce and serve it up. Then be prepared for nobody to believe you when you tell them the only seasoning in the cake is mushrooms.