Here's a secret...I am a bit of an ice cream making freak. Pretty much everything sweet flavored (and sometimes not so sweet), I think about adapting into ice cream. I haven't done anything too crazy, but this flavor gets the closest. This summer, a mushroom cultivator at a farmer's market introduced me to candy cap mushrooms. He was telling me about their caramelly, maplely flavor tones and started listing desserts his daughter makes with them. Right when he said ice cream, I said, "I'll take a bag!" I spent the next day or two researching on the internet. Apparently, his daughter is not alone in her love for desserts with candy cap mushrooms. The west coast loves these 'shrooms - bread puddings, creme brûlée, panna cotta - because they grow mostly in California.
Like many of my culinary endeavors, if I don't get to it right away, the excitement wanes and the special ingredient gets put away for a rainy day. Luckily, it's now winter in the NW and the rain is here for a while. Sure enough, I went foraging in my pantry this weekend, found the package of dried candy cap mushrooms, and started my project. With the help of my trusted mentor, David Lebovitz, (really, just his cookbook, The Perfect Scoop) and a recipe from Epicurious.com, I figured the result would be, at least, edible...it's ice cream, duh! One lick of the churning blade and I think I entered Candy Cap Heaven!! Imagine Penuche Fudge in an ice cream.
Note for the novice: Ice Cream is a bit of a project. Use this recipe as a guide more than an instructive method. I encourage you to read up on tips and techniques of ice cream preparation before getting started.
Note for all adventurers: I read that grinding dried mushrooms into a powder preserves the power of their flavor for cooking purposes. The web has instructions, all you need to have is a coffee grinder. —Rebecca Cherry
In a medium sized, non-reactive saucepan, warm the milk, salt, sugar, and 1 cup of the cream until the sugar dissolves. Add the mushroom powder to the warm mixture. Cover the pot. Let mixture steep for at least one and up to two hours.
Rewarm the mushroom infused milk. Pour the remaining 1 cup of cream into a large bowl. Place a fine mesh strainer on the bowl. Set up a shallow ice bath for the large bowl in the sink or a large pan.
In another bowl, whisk the egg yolks. SLOWLY, and as you whisk, pour about half of warm milk into the egg yolks. DO NOT STOP whisking while you pour. Gently return the warmed egg yolk mixture to the pot with the rest of the warm milk mixture.
Use a heat proof spatula or wooden spoon to stir this mixture constantly, as it sits over medium heat. Scrape the bottom as you stir and let the mixture thicken. Turn the heat off as soon as the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of the spatula, or can be felt scraping off the bottom of the pot. DO NOT LET THE CUSTARD BOIL.
Pour the custard through the strainer and into the bowl of heavy cream. Place the bowl in the ice bath. Stir in the maple syrup and vanilla. Continue to stir occasionally as the mixture cools to room temperature.
Once cooled, chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator. Churn the ice cream according to the ice cream maker manufacturer's directions.