Porcini Shortbread


True, I've rolled out quite a few porcini recipes this winter.  But can you blame me?  Last summer I collected four times more Boletus edulis, aka porcini, mushrooms than any previous year.  I have my friend Jennifer to thank.  You see, she understood very quickly upon meeting that I was obsessed with mushrooms.  And by obsessed, I don't mean that I merely look forward to finding mushrooms.  I mean that when I speak of mushrooms, my eyes dilate and drool flies, causing people to take a step back in terror.

Since Jen is an avid outdoor enthusiast and lives in the same area of the mountains where porcini grow, we joined forces.  I told her what sort of environment the mushrooms favored, and she drew from her vast trail knowledge to target several areas of interest.  Turns out that our collaboration was more fruitful than either of us could have imagined.  Not only that, once she knew what porcini looked like, she turned out to be expert at spotting them, thus earning the nickname, porcini piggie.

On the trail, Jen and I are the synchronized swimmers of the mushroom-hunting world, each able to follow the other's gaze to a suspected porcini, or work in perfect unison to throw down bakcpacks and fake a photo op in order to distract other mushroomers on the path.  In the kitchen, we are a study in contrasts.  In fact, we are Felix and Oscar, the Odd Couple reincarnated.

When it comes to cooking (and life), Jennifer is a scientist to the core.  She is neat, ordered, follows recipes, and admires precision and control.  She is a studied and outstanding cook.  To understand more about her approach, I recommend this article from Scientific American, where she talks about how science translates into the kitchen.

Me, on the other hand.... well, frankly, I'm the slob.  I'm Oscar.  I tornado through the kitchen, leaving overturned containers, stains, and burnt oven mitts in my wake.  I'm pathologically incapable of using recipes.  My dishes are a form of art, something sculpted through responsiveness and whim.

The beauty of it is that neither Felix nor Oscar is wrong.  Cooking is elevated by both technicians and trailblazers.  We approach food from entirely different angles, yet somehow manage to meet in the middle with mutual respect, unified in our belief that taste is king (and a love of porcini, bien sur).

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So I present to you Porcini Shortbread, a crumbly buttery cookie made deep and mysterious by mushrooms.  Don't run away in fear!  The porcini flavor is subtle.  I've resisted the urge to add other weird ingredients like black pepper or pine needles (such restraint!), and have let the porcini stand alone as the highlight of this recipe.  If you don't tell a person the secret ingredient, they can't guess.  But once they know, they sniff the cookie again, smack their lips and say, "ooooh, ok, now I get it."  These cookies are a treat for people who aren't crazy about sweets, as the mushrooms ground them and make them just right to savor with a dark cup of tea or coffee.

Porcini Shortbread


6 oz. butter, room temp
3 oz. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 oz. dried porcini mushroom powder*
7 oz. flour or gluten-free flour blend**


1.  Using a stand or hand mixer, whip the butter until it is fluffy.

2.  Add in the sugar and vanilla, and continue to beat the mixture until it has gone light and airy.

3.  Pour in the mushroom powder, and make certain it is well incorporated.

4.  Finally, add the flour.  Incorporate it at a low speed just until the mixture resembles wet chunks of dirt.

5.  Pour the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap, and use your hands to press the crumbs into a ball.  Wrap the dough ball in the plastic, and refrigerate it for an hour.

6.  Roll out the dough to 1/2".  It will want to crack and crumble a bit.  Just smush it back together with your fingers.  Cut out small rounds (or whatever shape floats your boat), and place them on a baking sheet.  No need to leave a lot of room between the cookies, because they don't spread.

7.  Poke the tops of the raw cookies with a fork.  The tiny holes help steam to escape.

8.  Bake the porcini shortbread cookies for 15 minutes at 325 degrees (F).  The cookies should only take on the tiniest bit of color.  Cool the baked cookies on a rack, so that the air circulates around them.

*To make porcini powder, simply buzz up dried porcini slices in a spice grinder.
**I used about equal amounts of sorghum and rice flours.

Many thanks to my friend Fairyface.  I loosely based this recipe upon the one she uses.  Being a Scot, she knows her shortbread!

Comments

  1. Oh this is so happening this afternoon. You, the Mushroom Witch, are very clever...

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    1. Gotta continue my quest to prove that everything tastes better with porcini :)

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  2. You've really stepped up your game lately. The blog is looking great!

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  3. You are indeed an artist, and a ballsy one, at that.

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  4. If only I had porcini mushrooms this is so totally something even I would make ;-) Not being the mushroom connoisseur that you are, how different in taste would this be from other shrooms, that I could buy at a farmers market? I know texture changes but when you grind it up - ??
    Oh, and how my family W.I.S.H.E.S my concoctions turned out! I do however keep trying!

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    1. you can purchase dried porcini mushrooms on the web and in stores, but I suggest a vigorous brushing with a toothbrush or fine bristled brush to remove the dirt before putting them into the coffee grinder to powder them. You have control over the level of dirt and grit if you've procured your own fresh mushrooms; but the store-bought dried ones are usually pretty dirty.

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    2. Interesting, I didn't know that about purchased mushrooms being dirtier, as I've only ever had the ones that I picked myself. I've noticed that even our middle-of-the-road grocery store is selling dried porcini and morels in the produce section these days.

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    3. Woohoo! put on the grocery list for sure!

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    4. The dried, store-bought (from King Soopers here in Boulder) porcinis are filthy. After soaking you need to wash them well while attempting not to send all of their essence down the drain. The cheapest ones can be bought at King Soopers here in Boulder(Kroger elsewhere), but they're not organically grown. You can get organically grown at Whole Foods. I haven't tried them because they're really expensive. Another organic source is www.MarxFoods.com. They sell Mycological brand dried organic mushrooms by the pound. I have purchased shitakes from them and they are not terribly dirty, so hope the same for their porcinis.

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    5. Organically grown? Does that mean that someone has succeeded in growing porcini as a commercial operation? I was under the impression that all of the porcini sold in the marketplace were from wild because they are mycorrhizal and hard to cultivate. I know that there is some problem with inferior product because those imported from less reputable countries are sometimes not actually Boletus edulis.

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  5. I might not have porcini but this recipe has opened up a can of whoopass on my conceptual understanding of "shortbread"...savoury shortbread! Why didn't I think of this before!...rich buttery shortbread that could be used as an appetiser topped with goodness only knows what...you genius! Cheers...poppyseed shortbreads...parmesan shortbread...pesto shortbread...tapenade shortbread...ad infinitum!

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    1. I really like this idea. There are numerous savory shortbread recipes. I like to use them as a platform for 'designer' salt, like Hawaiian black salt...

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  6. I think you could probably make this with dried shiitakes. Let me know how it works if you try it.

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  7. Funny to think of you as Oscar. Your pictures are always so tidy.

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  8. We are totally going to forage MOAR porcini this summer so you can continue your wonderful mad experiments in your winter kitchen! xoxo

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    1. ~Mwaaaah!~ I guess the real question is when are you going to start putting my tush through boot camp so that I'm in shape to get those ones up high?

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  9. Great intro. I don't know if I can picture you as an Oscar either though you are definitely not a Felix. I'm glad that I have a scale and a cache of porcini. Otherwise, I would have to do a bunch of math that I would not enjoy doing to get the recipe into tablespoons and cups.

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    1. Or you could just enjoy some with dinner tonight, silly. I've got more than enough for our dessert :)

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  10. Great idea for using your dried porcini.

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