We recently made a trip to the Oregon Coast. Over the last few years, except for 2020, we’ve been consistently only going to two cities along the coast–Astoria and Seaside.
One of the things I noticed this time around was a tourist shop that sells dried mushrooms, among the usual touristy stuff like t-shirts and key chains. I know that in general, the Pacific Northwest region of the US (Washington, Oregon, Idaho) is known for foraging and for wild edible mushrooms, but I don’t recall ever seeing dried mushrooms being sold in tourist shops in Washington state. Then again, I don’t usually go to tourist shops in my own state.
One type of dried mushroom that caught my eye was something called candy cap mushrooms. I had read about these being a unique type of edible mushroom in that it imparts a maple syrup-like flavor to any recipe you put it in and so for that reason, they are often used in desserts and candies. I was skeptical. Naturally I had to buy some. I also bought some lobster mushrooms, which are amazing, too, but that is for another post.
I also read online that the best way to incorporate candy caps into a dessert is to simply pulverize them into a powder because that helps to preserve the maple syrup-like flavor, more so than steeping them in a dairy product, which is my usual tendency.
I also read online that Oregon produces 99% of the hazelnuts bought and consumed in the US! So it was almost a no-brainer that these cookies would be made as soon as we returned to Seattle! The end result is really like a maple flavored hazelnut sandy! I was worried there would be a savory note to them, but they really are just sweet cookies.
I decided not to add too many other ingredients to this. I really wanted the hazelnuts and candy caps to shine. The faint smell of the mushrooms before baking (that, to me, doesn’t smell all that different from other mushrooms), magically transforms into a strong, pleasant, maple syrup-like flavor and scent! I wasn’t planning to be as awed as I am about this! Go make this, you won’t be disappointed! I was worried that pulverizing dried mushrooms and pouring it directly into a cookie dough would make for a gritty texture, as many dried mushrooms contain some grit, but I couldn’t detect any grittiness whatsoever.
hazelnut candy cap sandies (makes about 2 and 1/2 dozen, based on this pecan sandies recipe)
1/3 cup and 1/2 cup granulated sugar, divided use
2/3 cup chopped toasted hazelnuts
8 ounces unsalted butter, softened
4 teaspoons dried, powdered candy cap mushrooms
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
Line baking sheets with parchment lined paper.
Process the candy cap mushrooms in a spice grinder or food processor. If using a food processor, you may need to use a sieve to sift out the larger particles to only use a powder. You may need to process several larger candy cap mushrooms to be able to get 4 teaspoons of candy cap powder.
Next make the hazelnut praline: In a saucepan, add the 1/3 cup granulated sugar and heat on medium heat, stirring occasionally with a heat-resistant spatula. Once all the sugar has turned into a liquid but has not turned brown, turn heat to low and add the chopped, toasted hazelnuts.
Continue to stir the sugar and nuts until it starts to turn an amber color and quickly remove from heat and pour the sugar/nut mixture onto one of the parchment paper lined baking sheets and spread it out to cool. Set aside to cool. Once cooled, place into the cabin of a food processor and pulse only just to get some of the larger nuts to be smaller, but do not process to a powder. Alternately, you may be able to use a knife to chop the hazelnuts into smaller pieces. Set aside until ready to use.
Cream the butter with the remaining 1/2 cup granulated sugar until fluffy and pale. Add the vanilla extract and beat until mixed in.
Add the candy cap powder and continue to beat until also mixed in.
Add the salt and flour together and add to the cookie dough. Add the chopped hazelnut praline. Stir with a rubber spatula until just mixed in and mixture is consistent and no dry flour remains. Don’t over mix or beat. Press and form into a log and wrap in parchment paper. Cool in a refrigerator for at least an hour.
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.
When log of cookie has cooled completely, you can roll it several times on a counter to try and get it to be more of a cylinder, if you prefer clearly defined edges and more circular cookies.
Slice cookies about place on parchment lined baking sheets. You may not need to space them out too much as they tend not to grow in diameter too much.
Bake one baking sheet at a time for about 10-12 minutes until browned on the bottom.
Remove from oven and let cool at least 10 minutes. Cookies will last several days in an airtight container at room temperature.