Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Candy Cap Bread Pudding Recipe

Chef Todd Humphries of Kitchen Door generously agreed to share his recipe for candy cap bread pudding, an insanely delicious dish that is on Kitchen Door's menu every day.  WARNING: May be habit-forming.
Photo by Ashley Teplin.

Candy Cap Mushroom Bread Pudding
Yield: 1- 13x9 pan
      • 6 cups heavy cream
      • ½ cup dried candy cap mushrooms
      • ½ cup brown sugar
      • ½ cup granulated sugar
      • 1 teaspoon salt
      • 2 whole eggs
      • 4 egg yolks
      • 2 teaspoons vanilla
      • 1 ¼ loaves brioche
      • ¼ cup dried currants
      • ¼ cup dried golden raisins

    1. Measure cream into a sauce pot and add dried mushrooms.
    2. Heat until just simmering. Let infuse for 1 hour.
    3. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, yolks, both sugars, and salt.
    4. Add cream infusion and vanilla.
    5. Strain through a very fine strainer, set aside.
    6. Remove all crust from brioche. Slice into medium sized cubes.
    7. Layer half of the brioche in the 13x9 pan, sprinkle over half of the currants and half of the raisins.
    8. Add the rest of the brioche and top with remaining currants and raisins.
    9. Pour custard over brioche. Gently press down on the top to ensure that the custard has soaked into the brioche well.
    10. Cover with foil and place pan in a larger pan with water coming half way up the side of the 13x9.
    11. Bake at 350 for 1 hour, rotating half way through.
    12. Remove the foil and brown top of bread pudding for 10 min.
    13. Cool bread pudding completely, preferably overnight, and slice into 12 portions.
    14. Reheat in oven to serve.
For extra candy cap goodness, serve with Todd's recipe for Maple Anglaise Sauce... also made with mushrooms.

Maple Anglaise Sauce
Yield: 1 pint
      • 1 ¼ cup heavy cream
      • ½ cup whole milk
      • 1 tablespoon dried candy cap mushrooms
      • 6 tablespoons maple sugar
      • ¼ teaspoon salt
      • 4 egg yolks
      • ¼ teaspoon vanilla
    1. Measure cream and milk into a sauce pot.
    2. Add dried mushrooms.
    3. Heat until just simmering, infuse 1 hour.
    4. Combine yolks, sugar, and salt in a medium sized bowl.
    5. Reheat cream infusion to a simmer and temper into egg mixture.
    6. Return everything to the pot and stir constantly over low heat with a rubber spatula until thickened, but not curdling.
    7. Strain through a very fine strainer, add vanilla, cover surface with plastic and cool completely before use.
Why are we putting mushrooms in dessert? Check out my earlier post about candy cap mushrooms.

Maple-Flavored Mushrooms, And The Man Who Cooks Them

Though Todd Humphries has been cooking with candy cap mushrooms for years at his restaurants in Napa Valley, few people outside the area are familiar with these unique little funghi.  Candy caps (lactarius rubidus) are tiny bronze-colored mushrooms that grow wild in Mendocino, the Oakland Hills, and mushroom-friendly places north. 

Their claim to fame?  Candy caps smell and taste uncannily like maple syrup.

The (Mushroom) Man.
Photo by Ashley Teplin.
I sat down with Todd at his Napa restaurant Kitchen Door to learn more about these strange little beasts and their many delectable possibilities.  For those who don't know, Todd Humphries is the ultimate mushroom chef of Napa Valley, who not only cooks them in shockingly delicious ways, but also gets up pre-dawn to forage his own in the cold, damp wilds of northern California.

During his Martini House days, Todd used to offer seasonal all-mushroom tasting menus spotlighting beautiful and arcane varieties most people will never see again.  I was lucky enough to discover candy caps at such a dinner, just a few days before Martini House closed (check out my article on WineCountry.com for pictures and full report).  Fortunately for me and other candy cap lovers, Todd now runs his candy cap mushroom bread pudding on Kitchen Door's menu every day of the week... and he graciously agreed to share his recipe with you, my loyal blog readers.  You're welcome.

No one seems to know how or why the maple aroma and flavor is present in these mushrooms, but it's unmistakeable.  Fresh candy caps have a fainter maple scent than the dried versions -- which quickly dominate any airspace they're exposed to -- but can still be distinguished from similar-looking mushrooms by the milky fluid they exude when punctured (hence the Latin name "lactarius") and the rough cat's tongue texture of the cap. 

Fresh candy caps are very fragile and highly perishable, but also delicious to cook with if you have the opportunity, Todd says.  He recalls serving a rouget dish at Martini House with a curry reduction sauce and fresh candy caps sauteed in butter, where the mushrooms' spice and sweet aromatics complemented and amplified the sauce in a truly unique way.
The Kitchen Door candy cap bread pudding. They also
sell it to go, so you can ravish it in the privacy
of your own home.

Because of the perishability factor, though, most candy cap dishes in restaurants are made using dried mushrooms, which also have the strongest maple flavor and that slight hint of spice.  It takes 10-12 pounds of fresh mushrooms to yield one pound of dried, so dried candy caps tend to be pricy propositions.  Fortunately, they are potent little buggers and a little goes a long way.

Dried candy caps can be pulverized into a powder to use in pancakes, cookies, or spaetzle, but most commonly Todd uses them whole to infuse cream or milk for desserts (think panna cotta, anglaises... and bread pudding).  He recommends either a cold soak in the liquid overnight, or a slow, gentle warming of the liquid -- but boiling liquids, as in a reduction, seem to muddy the flavor somehow.  Another tip from the pro: don't try to rehydrate dried candy caps and use them whole like you would dried porcinis.  The texture just doesn't work. 

The maple flavor infuses warm liquid at an astonishing rate, as I discovered when playing at home with some dried mushrooms.  My 10-minute candy cap syrup proved a very interesting cocktail mixer for Calvados and fresh lemon juice, and Todd tells me he has seen other candy cap syrups on the market -- as well as candy cap-infused oil out of Oregon.  I'm thinking that would be amazing on crostini toasts with cheeses or charcuterie.

Curious to get your hands on some, for your own experiments?  Try Connie Green of Wine Forest Mushrooms, who supplies Kitchen Door and many other amazing restaurants on a wholesale basis, but also now operates a retail pantry store online.  

And please let me know about your delicious concoctions by commenting below.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Napa's Cocktail Renaissance

"The Franklin"
Until recently, it was hard to find a delicious alcoholic beverage in downtown Napa that wasn't wine. The number of full liquor licenses was very strictly controlled, and many were owned by establishments with what can be most charitably described as subsistence-level drinks.  Downtown Napa had about three options for a truly well-crafted cocktail, none of which had spacious bar areas.

No more.  The downtown revival of the last few years has ushered in a cocktail renaissance for our little wine-soaked town, thanks to the fine people at Morimoto, Oenotri, Eiko's, and Norman Rose Tavern.

Norman Rose originally opened with a beer and wine license, but has recently acquired the right to serve it all forth.  And so they do, at lunch as well as dinner.  Their menu includes hyper-local superstars like "The Franklin" (named after their cross street), a thirst-quenching marvel of Zaya rum, grapefruit bitters, Aperol, grapefruit juice and lime.  Sophisticated but approachable, it is wine country style in a highball glass. 

Eiko's and Morimoto offer more exotic refreshment, with both their cocktail menus and the usual denizens of their lounge.  Morimoto's nighttime bar scene delivers some of the best people-watching in town, but also a solid menu of asian-inflected cocktails that change seasonally.  Eiko's plays the liquid nitrogen game with its frozen caipirinha (served as a super cold alcoholic sorbet) and shakes up a slew of options with names like Dragon Cosmo, Sumo-jito, and the like, but my go-to in their sexy lounge space is a simple gimlet made with Skyy Ginger vodka and fresh lime juice.  Classic, refreshing, and spectacularly good with sushi, I am hard pressed not to order it every time I'm there.

The summertime heat is winning the battle with our office air conditioner... must be time for a drink.