I had been looking so forward to the rainy season out here in the Bay Area. Last year's rains prompted the forest floors to erupt in mushrooms in a way that I'd never before seen. I spent hours traipsing through the tall trees and filling my market baskets with Cantharellus californicus and Lactarius rubidus, California Chanterelle and Candy Cap, respectively. My Instagram account was littered with photos of curious specimens for months and I willingly exposed myself to far too much poison oak, which of course conquered me.
This year, however, the rains have been paltry and the detritus is crispy with dryness. I've found about 10% of the chanterelles as I found last year and the colorful woodland carpets are but a distant memory. I have, however, been quite lucky with a few brief but fruitful forages of Candy Caps. When their burnt-sienna smooth caps call out from the duff, I rush to pick them up and snap their stems to be sure they lactate clear/white liquid before dropping them into my basket and taking them home for a good wash and dehydration. For my birthday this year, I made a candy cap cheesecake and I'm going to attempt candy cap cinnamon rolls this weekend! But so far, this is my favorite recipe using the sweet little maple syrup-scented (when dry) mushrooms.
I've made only a few adaptations to the original recipe from The Bojon Gourmet. If you haven't foraged your own, you can get fabulous Candy Caps from Far West Fungi online or at the Ferry Building in San Francisco. Enjoy these marvelous myco-sweets!
3 teaspoons powdered candy caps (about 1/3 cup dried mushrooms, finely ground in coffee grinder)
4 ounces (1/2 cup, 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened but cool
1/3 cup sugar (i like to use less refined sugars here like demerara, sucanat or coconut)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup all-purpose einkorn flour
1/2 cup toasted pecans, chopped
flaky sea salt for topping the cookies
In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the candy cap powder, butter, sugar and salt until well combined and slightly lightened, about 2 minutes. (This dough gets creamed less than usual for cookies and cakes; it should be fairly dense and cool to make it easier to shape into logs.) Add the flour and pecans, mix on low until just combined. Fold the dough a few times by hand to make sure it is thoroughly combined.
Roll the dough into a log, about 12″ long and 1″ in diameter. (For a perfectly round log, roll in a sheet of parchment paper, using a bench scraper or ruler to squeeze the parchment tightly around the dough. See photo, above.) If not using parchment, wrap the log in plastic or wax paper. Chill until firm, 1 hour, or up to several days. (You can also freeze the logs. Thaw in the fridge before proceeding.)
Preheat the oven to 350º. Let the log stand at room temperature for 10 or 15 minutes. Unwrap, and slice the log into 1/4 – 1/2″ coins. (Rotate the log every few slices to prevent it from flattening on one side.) Arrange the cookies, one to two inches apart, on baking sheets lined with parchment paper, and sprinkle each coin with several flecks of salt.
Bake the coins until they are nicely golden all over, about 20-30 minutes, rotating once or twice. Underbaked cookies will be bland and pasty, so let these go a bit longer than you think. They will crisp up as they cool.
The cookies store very well in an airtight container for up to a week.