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!
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.