I’ve been egging on my husband for awhile to go out onto the back hillside and dig me a cheese and wine cave. Now that I am the unofficial “Queen of Vegan Cheese,” I figured that it would even be a write-off (and as a tax attorney, that’s a top concern of his). But a few weeks ago, he brought me home an old broken down refrigerator that he’d had in his office basement. Not sure where it came from, but it would only go down to 50 degrees, which is too warm to be a functioning fridge — but, he declared, would be an absolutely PERFECT temperature for aging cheese!
And it has worked beautifully, amazingly in achieving the hardness I want without issues of mold! So I have been happily building up a trove of cheesy treasures to enjoy over the holidays and the weeks and months to come. In fact, I’ve been so absorbed with cheese that I’ve barely even thought about Thanksgiving,something I usually plan weeks ahead. But I’m not about to bring out the hard cheeses next week – I’ve been taking tastes, slicing off a bare sliver, and with each passing day, they are becoming deeper and more complex in flavor. I’m not yet ready to stop that process. So what to serve as an exciting starter that I can make between now and Thursday?
I found the answer in a package from Amazon: truffle oil. Truffle oil varies in quality, depending on whether it’s made from truffle aroma or real truffle shavings. You need to read the ingredients to know. I’ve bought truffle oil where I needed a tablespoon to even get the hint of the mushroom. Of course, real truffles are the way to go if you can train your dog to hunt for them, or if you’re willing to shell out $50 for a single truffle. But a good bottle of truffle oil can send you off to truffle heaven. And what more perfect of a cheese to combine that with than a creamy, rich Brie?
There’s a Brie and a Camembert in my book, but I decided that it would be better with the recipe I created for VegNews. Into the brie, I swirled in finely minced and sauteed mushrooms that I infused with truffle oil. My recipe says to set on the counter to dry for 24 hours, then flip and set for another 12, but within a few hours, I had to take a nibble. And that nibble turned into a slice on a cracker. And then another and another. It was so delicious I just couldn’t resist.
And you won’t be able to, either, especially if you love truffles. If you’re going to an omni party and want to bring something to impress, take this. Or if you’re having a quiet holiday with your family or a couple of friends, savor it as you sip wine and finish preparing the rest of the meal. My round isn’t going to last until Thursday, so I know I’ll be making another one this weekend!
You’ll want to make sure that you get your cashews really smooth for this. There should be no hint of graininess. If you don’t have a powerful blender, such as a Blendtec or Vitamixer, use raw cashew butter instead of cashews. Yes, that’s a new trick I’ve discovered – and you can skip the whole soaking part! You will need 3 days start to finish for this.
1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for 3 – 8 hours, or 4.5 ounces raw cashew butter (do not soak)
1 cup water
1/2 cup plain unsweetened soy yogurt
1/2 cup refined coconut oil (don’t use extra virgin!)
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, divided
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
1 teaspoon agar powder
6 ounces mushrooms
1 tablespoon oil
1 teaspoon good quality black truffle oil (or more if needed – depends on quality)
In a high speed blender, combine the cashews, water, yogurt, coconut oil, nutritional yeast, and one teaspoon of the salt. Process until absolutely creamy and smooth. Pour the mixture into a medium bowl, cover with a tea towel, and set on your counter for 24 to 36 hours until a slight tang develops. Don’t let it get too tangy, but remember, you must be the judge.
When the cheese has sufficiently cultured, start on the mushrooms. Quarter the mushrooms, then put in a food processor. Pulse until they are finely minced. Don’t process to the point where they become a slurry or mushy. Heat the oil in a skillet, then add the mushrooms, a good pinch of salt, and saute on high until browned, about 2 minutes. They should not be watery or completely dry. Mix in the truffle oil. Set aside while you finish preparing the cheese.
Prepare a six-inch round cake pan or similar mold by lining it with a double layer of cheesecloth with the cloth hanging over the sides. Pour the cultured cheese mixture into a medium saucepan. Using a wire whisk, whisk in the tapioca flour and agar. Over medium heat, bring the mixture ot a simmer, stirring often, until it becomes thick and shiny. Using a spatula, swirl the mushrooms into the cheese so that it is not completely dispersed. Pour the cheese into the cheesecloth-lined mold, and smooth the top. Put it in the refrigerator for a few hours until set and firm enough to unmold.
Gently remove the cheese from the mold. Remove the cheesecloth. Wet your hands and sprinkle the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt on them. Wipe the salt all over the cheese. Set the cheese on a wire rack or a Japanese bamboo sushi roller. Let it sit in a cool place for 24 hours. Flip over and let sit another 12 to 24 hours. To store, wrap in wax paper and refrigerate.