|Wild Rice & Candy Cap Mushroom Scones|
Such was my inspiration for this month's International Incident Party: Scones, hosted by the tremendous trio of Penny at Jeroxie, Anh of A Food Lover's Journey and Cherrie of Sweet Cherrie Pie. To flavor these popular quick breads, sweet ingredients have been found in fruit orchards and flower beds, while savory elements are drawn from vegetable patches and herb gardens. But why not venture a little further afield, into the woods and along lakeshores and riverbanks?
Where the Wild Things Are
I was recently reminded of the wonderful qualities of manoomin, better known as wild rice, by Scott Burns of Scenic Waters Wild Rice Company, who offers his hand-harvested grains at the Minneapolis Farmers Market. Light in color, quick to cook, and so flavorful - earthy, slightly nutty with a hint of green - truly wild rice is still collected by the Ojibwe using a generations-old method of floating among the tall grasses growing along the banks of Minnesota's northern lakes and rivers, and beating the plants with sticks to knock their grains onto the boat. Though laborious to harvest, native manoomin is far superior to the commercial, paddy-grown stuff usually found on grocery shelves.
I might have ended up with a scone version of the aforementioned Mahnomin Porridge, chock full of wild rice, dried fruits and toasted hazelnuts, then topped with cream and maple syrup, if the last ingredient hadn't sparked a recollection of something special in my freezer. A couple of months ago, I received a treasure box of ingredients from specialty foods purveyor Marx Foods, courtesy of Natasha of 5 Star Foodie, who had invited me to participate in her Makeover Summer '10 Special. Among the samples of aji amarillo and flageolet beans was a small bag of brown, wrinkly dried fungus - none other than the extraordinary candy cap mushroom.
Candy cap mushrooms (Lactarius rubidus and L. rufulus) grow wild within the coastal forests from Northern California to the Pacific Northwest and are abundant during the winter months. Their unusually sweet flavor and fragrance put them in a most unusual situation for a mushroom - as an element for dessert, such as this Candy Cap Persimmon Flan by Christo of Chez What? blog.
I had read about them, wondered about them, wished I could get my hands on them. And there they were. Everything that is said about their aroma, redolent of maple syrup, is absolutely true. It's a heady, crave-inducing but all-permeating fragrance, which necessitates storing in the freezer to best preserve it and to keep from infusing the rest of your pantry with its sweet scent. The moment I spotted it in its double-bagged storage (it really is a strong aroma), the oven light switched on and my scone was born.
Wild Rice and Candy Cap Mushroom Scones
(Basic scone recipe adapted from King Arthur Flour)
Leave the white gloves at home and loosen the corset strings - these scones will leave you wanting to lick the buttery crumbs off your fingers and then reaching for another one. Unlike some scones whose added ingredients like chocolate, dried fruits or seasonings may peg them squarely as either sweet or savory, these little breads walk on both the wild and the civilized sides. The chewiness of wild rice contrasts well with the airy cream and gelatinous jams of traditional scone accompaniments, while the sweetness of candy cap mushrooms is an equally delicious counterpoint to smoked fish and cured meats. Or else, just enjoy them plain and natural.
The candy cap mushrooms were steeped in heavy cream, then chopped to be added into the dough. Cooked wild rice maintained its firm texture through the baking process, while 'dropping' the dough by the spoonfuls gave these scones a more natural, rustic look.
Makes approximately 18 round scones
1/4 to 1/3 cup whole dried candy cap mushrooms
1/2 cup to 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, heated (plus extra 1/4 cup)2-3/4 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
1 Tbs baking powder
1/2 cup cold butter, cut into pieces
1 cup cooked wild rice (approximately 1/3 cup uncooked)
2 large eggs
2 tsps vanilla
1) In a small non-reactive bowl, cover dried mushroom with heated cream and let steep for about 20-25 minutes. When done, remove softened mushrooms, reserving the infused cream, and chop into small pieces. Set aside while making the dough;
2) In a medium bowl, sift flour, salt and baking powder together; add butter pieces and work into the dry ingredients with pastry cutter, fork or hands, until mixture is evenly crumbly. Add cooked wild rice and mushroom pieces and stir to combine well;
3) In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, vanilla and cream, then add to the flour, rice and mushroom mixture. Stir until just moistened and a soft, slightly sticky dough begins to form.
4) Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and using a spoon or ice cream scoop, drop 2 to 3 Tablespoons of dough onto the baking sheet, with at least 1/2" of space between each. Using a piece of parchment or wax paper, slightly flatten each scone. It's alright if they are not perfectly round.
6) Bake for 20-25 minutes or until scones are a golden brown. When done, remove from oven and cool on the pans. Serve with your favorite jams, marmalades and preserves, with cream or butter, and with smoked fish or cured meats. Or place in an airtight container and freeze until ready to eat.
WARNING: Your kitchen will smell deliriously of delicious maple syrup! Do not open the windows or turn on the fans - just enjoy breathe it in . . .
Are you now jonesing for some scones - sconesing, as it were? Then check out the rest of the International Incident Scones Party: