Everyday Food Blog

In the Test Kitchen: Candy Cap Mushrooms

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Knowing I always love cooking with new ingredients, our food editor Khalil had a really special treat for me last week—a batch of candy cap mushrooms that were sent to him from Eric Schramm “the Mushroom Man” of Mendocino, CA.  The mushroom, which is somewhat exclusive to the West Coast, is rare, and can cost up to $200 a pound for the dry form—but that’s not all that makes it unique.  The candy cap mushroom has a very surprising aroma and flavor— one that is sweet and very reminiscent of maple syrup.  Our small package filled the entire kitchen with the scent!

Candy Cap Mushroom Ice Cream!

Though their flavor is not quite as strong, they are a pleasant and unexpected addition to desserts, as well as savory dishes.  I tried them in two recipes that were sent along with the mushrooms, a candy cap and leek tart, and a candy cap crème brulee.  I also steeped some of the powdered mushrooms in crème anglaise with cinnamon and made a candy cap ice cream.  The mild earthy flavor that accompanies the sweetness didn’t win over every one in the kitchen— but it certainly made for some unique desserts. If you don’t live on the West Coast, candy caps are available online.  Here are our favorite recipes.

Candy Cap Crème Brulee

Recipe adapted from Chef Nicholas Petti, Mendo Bistro, Fort Bragg, CA

Makes 6 large custards

1-quart heavy cream

1/4 cup dried candy cap mushrooms

1 vanilla bean, split in half

8 egg yolks

3/4 cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350°.  Heat cream, mushrooms, and vanilla just until the liquid boils, and then remove from heat.  Let infuse for 30 minutes then strain, and discard mushrooms and vanilla bean.  Beat eggs and sugar together until pale and thick.  Slowly add the cream mixture, stirring gently.  Fill custard cups and place them into a baking pan.  Add enough water to the pan that it comes about halfway up the cups.  Bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the center of the custard is barely set when shaken.  Remove from water bath and let cool in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.  Before serving, sprinkle with a thin layer of sugar and slowly caramelize with a blowtorch.

Candy Cap Mushroom and Leek Tart

Makes 6 small tarts

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus more for crust

8 oz wild mushrooms (shitake, morels, oyster, etc.), thinly sliced

2 lb leeks

2 large eggs

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 tablespoons dried candy cap mushrooms, ground

1/2 cup grated Gruyere cheese

1 sheet frozen puff pastry or phyllo dough, thawed

In a large sauté pan, melt 1-tablespoon butter, and cook mushrooms until soft, about 3 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.  Melt 2 tablespoons butter and add trimmed leeks to pan, cook covered until soft and translucent, 25 to 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350°.  In a medium saucepan blend together eggs, cream, ground mushrooms, sautéed mushrooms, leeks, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place 4-5 layers of thawed phyllo dough cut into squares into a buttered muffin pan. Sprinkle cheese in each of the tarts, and top with custard mixture.  Bake until firm, about 25 to 30 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Comments (17)

  • avatar

    Live on the West Coast and have had the pleasure of tasting the Candy Cap Creme Brulee at the Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg. This recipe looks exactly like Nicholas' Petti's recipe. He also makes the Chocolate Bark with Cayenne Pepper as a Topping. Besides his Creme Brulee, he makes the #1 Crab Cakes out here!

  • avatar

    Wow- how nice to see this on the blog. While creme brulee is a somewhat ubiquitous dessert, not many have mushrooms in them. We also do a porcini brulee as an appetizer sometimes.

  • avatar

    This is my favorite dessert at Mendo Bistro! I pick candy caps on my property here on the Mendocino Coast every year and adore using them for sweet treats like this! Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  • avatar

    The Candy Cap Creme Brulee recipe sounds a dream. Will have to have someone bring some back so I can try the recipe.
    Can't wait!

  • avatar

    Chef Petti and his crew at the Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, California put out some of the most amazing food around.I love that they focus on fresh, local,seasonal and organic ingredients.The flavor profiles are exquisite. We are so fortunate to be able to share in the creativity of this upcoming culinary legend. Thanks for the recipe Martha!

  • avatar

    I remember the first time I had the Candy Cap Mushroom Crème Brûlée at Mendo Bistro. Not only is it a marvelous crème brûlée but also the mushrooms add an earthy, maple taste that's out of this world. I hadn't realized how lucky we are to be living out here. I'm not sure I'd pay up to $200/lb even though the taste is amazing.

    Several times a year (esp. during Candy Cap Mushroom season and during crab season for his Crab Cakes), we drive 3 hours up the coast from San Francisco to Fort Bragg to spend a couple nights and eat at Mendo Bistro. That crème brûlée is that good.

  • avatar

    Ooooh. I will have to give this one a try! We make it to the Mendocino Mushroom Festival every year, but I would love to be able to impress my own guests with this deliciousness!

  • avatar

    As a food writer and a fan of chef Petti's Mendo Bistro, I'm happy that the brulee recipe is now available so that others can discover this extraordinary dessert. It's an example of how creative cooks and chefs in Mendocino use their bounty of wild mushrooms in that beautiful place.

  • avatar

    I've heard rave reviews about this dessert at Mendo Bistro in Fort Bragg, CA. Chef Nicholas Petti has a wonderful reputation so I'm super excited that you've featured his recipe here. Can't wait to try it!

  • avatar

    Nicholas's Candy Cap Creme Brulee is the best. When you hear mushroom and dessert in the same sentence you think no way BUT once you taste this you realize how heavenly a combination it is. Nick is the best at combining ingredients that don't sound like they go together and creating a masterpiece. And this talent does not stop at dessert. I know where I am going tonight for dinner.

  • avatar

    Love this Creme Brulee...and love Eric Schramm...he has given me many ideas on cooking wild mushrooms. Hunting for these wild 'shrooms is a fun fall and winter pastime...instead of sitting on my couch in the cooler weather, I am out searching for the elusive porcini or hedgehog or candy cap or chantrelle or ?? Love the Mendocino coast and long live the mushroom!!!

  • avatar

    We love Nicholas Petti's creme brulee - it's silky and scrumptious and the candy cap maple-syrupy taste and aroma are sublime.

  • avatar

    Just across the street from Mendo Bistro is Cowlick's; they've been making Candy Cap ice cream for years and it's hugely popular.

  • avatar

    Nice to see our hometown restaurant Mendo Bistro credited for his creative recipe of candy cap mushroom creme brulee,,,and by the way it is just delicious

  • avatar

    Eric Schramm and Nick Petti are two of the reason's folks travel from all over to savor food on the Mendocino coast. Both are pioneers in locavore cuisine. Check out the Mendo Bistro web page for some other wonderful recipes. http://www.mendobistro.com

  • avatar

    I agree with Gloria Liner's comment re: Erick Schramm, and Nick Petti's creative cuisine. I consider the Mendocino Wine and Mushroom Festival in November to be a "Must Attend" annual food event. I would also recommend the food at the MacCallum House in Mendocino. Chef Alan Kantor uses local ingredients to turn out some of the most delicious dishes I've ever had cross my lips.

  • avatar

    This is an incredible mushroom. It is not a sweet tasting mushroom by itself , but magically bonds to the sugars in the recipes to trick the mind & taste buds into thinking they're sweet. They will smell the whole house with a wonderful Maple Syrup smell while you're cooking with them , or simply set an open bag of dried ones in a room. I do this at Thanksgiving time. It doesn't take many to flavor a dish.

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