Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: Recipe Impossible Challenge

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Recipe Impossible Challenge

I was recently chosen as one of 10 bloggers to take part in a “recipe impossible challenge” being hosted by Joanne of Eats Well With Others and sponsored by Marxfoods. The challenge was to come up with an original recipe using winter squash. Something so good that Joanne would want to eat lots and lots of it.

But wait there's more to this challenge. Each participant was sent a box of secret ingredients, courtesy of Marxfoods, and were required to incorporate at least two of them into their recipe. Let me tell you this was not an easy task. My box of ingredients included: two different varieties of chili peppers, vanilla beans, fennel pollen, maple sugar, espresso salt, coconut sugar and ginger salt. My immediate reaction was to make something sweet..probably because sweets are my passion…so I decided to go with it.

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t done much cooking/baking with winter squash so this was going to truly be a challenge for me. Once I decided to do something sweet I tossed around what seemed like a million ideas. I asked everyone I came in contact with what they thought and basically stressed over it for several days. I finally came up with Roasted Butternut Squash Mascarpone Cheesecake with a Chocolate Chili Crust topped with Maple Glazed Pecans…AKA “the bomb”.

The challenge, for me, did not end there. I had never baked with chili powder before...which one should I use, and how much?...or what about this Ginger salt...could I use it to replace the salt in the recipe?...would I still have to use ground Ginger? So many questions were going through my head. I knew this was going to be a matter of trial and error.

So I started by roasting and pureeing the squash. Then I grinded each of the chili’s and did a taste test with the chocolate. Adding and subtracting ingredients as I went along to get just the right taste. After several hours of this it was finally time to bake.

The cheesecake cooked for over an hour, cooled in the pan for another hour and then in the refrigerator for several more….the suspense was killing me. Well it was worth the wait…my first bite was heaven. This is a creamy cheesecake, which is how I like them. And it's just bursting with flavor. I'll admit up until the last moment I wasn’t sure how the combination of flavors was going to stack up but I can tell you that from nuts to chocolate chili crust everything blended was like a flavor bomb exploded in my mouth...hence the name “the bomb” cheesecake. (Plus it’s a lot shorter than saying Roasted Butternut Squash Mascarpone Cheesecake with a Chocolate Chili Crust and Maple Pecan Topping)

If you think this recipe is good enough to eat repeatedly;  I hope you'll consider voting for it on 11/1. Details on where to vote will follow.

The "Bomb" Cheesecake

Chocolate Chili Crust
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 ozs dark chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp Pasilla Negro Chili powder (secret ingredient)

Preheat the oven to 325°. Lightly butter a 9-inch spring form pan. Melt your butter and chocolate in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring constantly. Remove the chocolate mixture from the heat and add your sugar, stirring until blended. Then add the egg continuing to mix until blended.

Mix the flour, baking powder, chili powder and salt in a small bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the melted chocolate, mixing until incorporated. Spread the batter in the prepared spring form pan and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool completely.  

Butternut Squash Filling
3- 8 oz packages cream cheese, at room temperature
8 oz mascarpone cheese
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 3/4 cup roasted butternut squash puree
1/2 tsp ginger salt (secret ingredient)
1 Tbs ground cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp ground cloves
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 325°.  In a bowl, combine the cream cheese and brown sugar mixing on low speed until smooth. Add the squash puree, and all of your spices. Mix for several minutes, scraping the bowl often, until it's evenly blended. Add the mascarpone and mix again for 2 to 3 minutes. Add your eggs one at a time mixing after each addition.

Pour over the crust. Place the filled pan in a deep baking dish and add enough water so that it comes up about 3/4 of the way up the pan. Bake for 1 1/2 hours, or until the cake is set around the edges. Turn the oven off, prop the door open letting the cake cool in the oven for about an hour.  Remove from water bath and refrigerate the cake for at least 4 hours before removing from pan.

Maple Pecan Topping
4 Tbs unsalted butter
2 cups pecans
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 Tbs maple sugar (secret ingredient)
3 Tbs water

Make a simple syrup with the maple sugar and water by mixing them together in a small pot over medium heat until dissolved. 

Melt butter in another pan.  Add pecans stirring until lightly toasted. Remove from heat.  Pour maple syrup mixture over pecans and mix.  Place pot back on heat.  Add heavy cream and cook stirring until desired consistency is reached. 

Allow to cool and pour over pie.


  1. I want to try this SO bad!! It looks fabulous! If there's any left, uh, could you throw a slice in the freezer for me?!!

  2. That sounds incredible! It's healthy because it has squash in it - yes that's what I will tell myself!

  3. I am so very impressed! I would definitely make and eat this again and again! We adore cheesecake, and I'm always looking for new and original flavors. Thank you for sharing!

  4. This recipe sounds incredible. I especially intrigued with the crust using Pasilla Negro Chili powder. Sounds so exotic !

  5. this cheesecake looks delicious..addition of chilli to the cheesecake crust is great idea

  6. I love this entry! You really went to town with it and created a dessert that I honestly will definitely be making, hopefully in the near future!

  7. Ooh, yum! I'm so amazed at what everyone came up with for this challenge! It was so fun :)

  8. ooh, love the chile addition to the chocolate! i had thought about it but forgot when i was in the midst of baking :)

  9. man alive - everyone was SO creative with this challenge! I have so many recipes flagged ;)

  10. You did such a great job with the challenge--so very creative and I love how you worked the chili in. Your cheesecake looks amazing!