How to Make Candy Cap Mushroom Cookies
To kick start the rain season, I decided to dig into my candy cap reserve and bake some cookies for my mushroom cultivation class. Most of the students are beginners in mycology and never had candy caps or candy cap cookies. I figured this would be a good way to get them excited. I was super excited when I first learned of this amazing little dessert mushroom!
Candy caps (Lactarius rubidus) are found on grounds or rotten wood in forests, usually in groups. In California it is abundant under oak and pine, where chantrelle (oak) and porcini (pine) are. Some of its key features are:
1. Cap and stalk burnt orange to orange-brown or sometimes reddish-brown.
2. Cap small (usually <2 1/2" broad), the surface dull and dry.
3. Fresh gills exuding a watery white milk when cut.
4. Neither the milk nor the flesh change color when exposed.
5. Entire mushroom brittle, the stalk snapping open cleanly like a piece of chalk.
6. No veil, ring, or volva.
7. Odor sweet (like maple syrup), especially when cooked or dried.
8. Spores white.
You may also find candy caps in mushroom specialty stores like Far West Fungi. I picked an abundant amount of candy caps in January this year. I dried all of them since their maple syrupy aroma gets stronger after they are dried. They are excellent in cookies, breads, waffles, pancakes, cheesecakes, pancakes, and ice cream.
This Candy Cap Cookies recipe is in David Aurora's All That the Rain Promises and More... I have made it several times and have some tips to ensure your success in making these cookies.
1 cup dried candy caps
1 cup unsalted butter at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
2 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts (optional)
Rehydrate the mushrooms by soaking them in lukewarm water for 15 minutes. Chop up the mushrooms into tiny pieces and sauté them in a little butter. Set aside.
Cream together 1 cup butter and 1 cup sugar. Beat in 1 egg and, if you like, add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract. Stir in 2 1/2 cups of flour in small batches. I add 1/2 cup at a time into the mixer and let it mix well before adding the next 1/2 cup. It's very important that you don't dump all 2 1/2 cups at once. If you do that, the dough will fall apart. After the flour is all mixed in, you can stir in some finely chopped nuts. I usually add some pecans. Stir in the mushroom bits and mix it well.
Form the dough into rolls about 1 to 1 1/2" in diameter. I personally prefer not to get the dough all over my hands because I don't want to waste any dough if possible. I use a bamboo sushi roller to roll up the dough in a sheet of wax paper - just like how you make a roll of sushi. Use the wax paper as if it was a sheet of seaweed, put it on top of the bamboo roller, scoop up a desirable amount of dough and spread it out across the paper with a spatula. The roller is a handy tool in rolling up the cookie dough without it melting in your warm hands. The bamboo roller is available in Asian markets for about $2. Fold down the ends of the wax paper and freeze. When ready to bake, remove rolls from freezer and slice them to no more than 1/4 inch a piece. Place them on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until very lightly browned around the edges. Makes about 6 dozens.
There is nothing else that smells like these cookies. I love surprising people with them and look at their puzzled faces as they try to figure out what makes the cookies so good. The surprised expressions on their faces after learning it's a mushroom is simply priceless.