Phew that title was a mouthful! And what a delicious little mouthful these chewy, gooey, mushroom caramel chocolates are.
Each chocolate has a whole wild jelly ear mushroom hidden inside, that’s been smothered in salted miso caramel and enrobed in a layer of dark chocolate. Finished off with some flaky sea salt. Perfection.
I believe the first person to pair jelly ears with chocolate was Fergus the Forager, so we have him to thank for this bizarre, but completely delicious combination of jelly ear mushroom + chocolate. For more wild recipes over on his Instagram page click here.
By dehydrating then rehydrating your jelly ears they become chewy rather than jellified, a texture which works so well with this recipe. The mushrooms take on some of the flavour of the juice you rehydrate them in, but the salted caramel is where the flavour's really at.
This caramel is taken to the next level by adding sea salt and white miso (whatever you do, don’t use brown miso), to get that salty sweet and umami flavour we love. No miso? No problem. Salted caramel will still be delicious!
The recipe is simple to make, but as with many foraging recipes, it’s not instant chocolate gratification.
First you want to journey out to the woods to gather your jelly ear mushrooms, wash them, then leave them somewhere warm to fully dry out.
Then, you’ll rehydrate them overnight in some juice or liqueur, coat them in caramel and then in chocolate, and you’ll be popping them in the freezer in between each step.
That might sound quite involved, but mostly you are just leaving the jelly ears to get on with their own thing. And after a few days you’ll be rewarded with the most delicious chewy, gooey chocolates!
So, before you make your chocolates, let's go over foraging for your jelly ear mushrooms...
Foraging for Jelly Ears
Jelly, Wood or Tree ears (Auricularia auricula-judae) are a common mushroom found in the UK. They have a squidgy, jelly-like translucent texture on the inside and are distinctly recognisable because they look like an ear!
You must make sure you have a positive ID when picking mushrooms (or any plant) so please consult your guidebooks to help you identify, and never consume anything you aren’t 100% sure of.
Jelly ears are brown or tan in colour, and the cup shape is always facing downwards. The top side has a really light, velvety down, and the underside is smoother and lighter in colour. Observe the forest floor for decaying branches, logs and tree stumps. Jelly ears grow on dead deciduous trees, like elder, beech and ash.
Once you've found and dehydrated your jelly ears for a few days, it's time to make your chocolates!
You will need:
+ A handful of jelly ear mushrooms (around 10).
I like a mixture of sizes, and try to find ones with a decent cup shape
+ 1 cup of decent cloudy English apple juice (or juice/liqueur of choice)
For the caramel:
+ 1 cup coconut cream
+ 1/2 cup light brown sugar
+ 1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
+ 2 tsp white miso
+ flaky sea salt
For the chocolate coating:
+ 1 bar good quality dark chocolate
Once you have gathered and dried your jelly ears (ones with nice cups!), rehydrate them overnight in a bowl of cloudy apple juice. Drain them, put them on a piece of parchment paper on a baking tray and pop them in the freezer.
To make your caramel, add 1 cup coconut cream to a saucepan with 1/2 cup light brown sugar. Whisk, turn the heat up to a boil then reduce the heat and let the caramel simmer for around 10 - 15 minutes.
Take it off the heat, add a pinch of sea salt, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract and 2 tsp white miso. Whisk again and then pour the caramel into a bowl and leave it cool for at least an hour. The caramel will firm up as it cools.
Now it's time to coat your jelly ears in your caramel sauce. And this is why you want to have gathered jelly ears with a decent cup, because that means a nice cup of caramel inside your chocolate! And they are less messy than the flatter jelly ears, but there's nothing wrong with that, we like a messy chocolate.
Return the tray to the freezer and leave until set, ideally overnight.
You will have plenty of leftover caramel to eat straight from the bowl, drizzle over pancakes, or use as a dip for some crisp green apple slices, or however you fancy using it. Delicious.
Next, gently melt a bar of dark chocolate in the microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring each time. Once melted, let it cool just a little before you coat your jelly ear chocolates.
Take your frozen caramels out of the freezer and get ready to coat them in chocolate. You want to work pretty quickly here before the caramel has much of a chance to melt. If you are slow and clumsy like me and end up with a pool of fudgy caramel chocolate then that's fine too. They will still taste great.
Coat your jelly ear caramels in the chocolate, letting the excess chocolate run off and then put them back on the tray, sprinkle them with sea salt and return to the freezer to set.
Enjoy! I like them straight out of the freezer, but you may like to let them come to room temperature before eating.
Let me know if you make these jelly ear chocolates! And please tag me if you upload photos of your chocolates to Instagram, I love seeing your creations.