Candy Cap Bones: The Old Mysteries of Dark Woods
There is something particularly alluring about the thought of wandering into dark, mysterious woods. While a sunny day calls for playful frolicking, a misty late fall day lends itself to a more pensive exploration, deliciously melancholy. It’s on days like this that one almost expects to stumble upon a secret castle or portal to another time. The undergrowth holds many secrets, from the golden treasure of chanterelle mushrooms to the ancient mysteries of old bones.
As the season of death approaches, bones are at the forefront of our consciousness. Sure, there are the plastic skeletons that grace our yards or the spooky pictures hung in the windows… but I’m talking about something beyond those. Something ancient. Something palpable. Something you can feel in a place so deep you didn’t even know it existed.
Bone magic is primal. It’s gritty. It’s wild. Whether practiced intentionally or just stumbled upon, bones can both reveal and hide many things. I think of the many strange skeletal forms I’ve stumbled upon during my foraging excursions, the nearly-complete deer skeletons starting to gather moss, the skulls laying on a soft pillow of grass. They always catch me off-guard and I feel compelled to slow down, to focus, to pay my respects for the animal laying in front of me bared so vulnerably and honestly.
Bones are reminders to us of mortality and endings. The process of their decay reminds us that we, too, will someday return to the earth just as they are doing. They remind us to work towards the things we value and release the things that aren’t important. Like death itself, they prompt us to focus on living a better life. And sometimes, that means releasing something… for now, or forever.
So inscribe your bones with secret messages, written in symbols or heiroglyphs. Bury your secrets in the soil. Or, if you make this recipe, you can just eat them instead!
Yes, you read that right. This mysterious and mossy pile of bones is actually a sweet and crunchy treat! I’ve had the idea of mossy old bones in the back of my head for almost a year now, but hadn’t figured out how to make them without complex molds… then I watched ‘The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell’ on Netflix and got inspired by her peanut butter bone treats! I wanted my version to reflect the actual flavor of those deep and mossy woods, so I whipped up a batch of chocolate caramel (instead of her peanut butter clay) and infused it with plenty of candy cap mushrooms. These magical little members of the lactarius family give everything they touch a strong maple-like flavor with earthy undertones, absolutely perfect when paired with smooth caramel, crunchy pretzels, and creamy milk chocolate. Mmm. These are a perfect Halloween treat, delicious as a snack, dessert, or just to freak out the neighbor kids. ;) Hope you enjoy this bone magic as much as I did!
Candy Cap Chocolate Caramel:
Somewhere between caramel and fudge, this sweet mixture is infused with the enticing maple-like scent of candy cap mushrooms. If you can’t find this kind of mushroom, you can instead substitute vanilla bean powder or pumpkin pie spice.
14 oz milk chocolate
1 (14 oz) can dulce de leche
2 tsp. powdered candy cap mushrooms
Melt the milk chocolate over a double boiler on medium heat until melted. Allow to cool to 91F. Stir in the rest of the ingredients.
Use a spoon or your hands to make sure all of the caramel is mixed into the chocolate. Wrap in plastic wrap and let rest in a cool place for 45 minutes.
Knead the mixture in your hands until smooth.
Candy Cap Caramel Bones:
These take some time and patience, but the result is well worth it!
long hard pretzels
candy cap caramel, above
almond extract or vodka
Using slightly greased hands, gently press some of the caramel around each pretzel stick to be about 1/4” thick and cylindrical.
Place the caramel-coated pretzels on a piece of parchment paper in the fridge, removing one at a time to sculpt into a bone.
To create a bone shape, roll 4 balls of caramel about the size of large marbles. Stick 2 on each end, smoothing them down to form a continuous bone shape. Place back in the fridge to cool.
When you’ve shaped all of the caramel bones, place the tray in the freezer for at least 20 minutes to allow the caramel to harden.
Meanwhile, melt a big bowl of white chocolate over a simmering pot of water on medium heat, stirring frequently. Be very careful not to get any water in the chocolate bowl, as moisture will make the white chocolate seize up.
Pour the melted white chocolate into a shallow dish. Using a fork or your hands, dip each frozen bone into the white chocolate and cover it completely using a spoon. Gently lift out with a large serving fork or tongs and place on a sheet of parchment paper to harden. Try to leave as minimal marks as possible, but having a couple isn’t a big deal.
Once all of the bones have been dipped and hardened, flip them over and spoon a little more white chocolate on any areas that look thin or don’t have complete coverage. Let harden, then transfer to the freezer for another 20-30 minutes.
Using a vegetable grater or sharp knife, gently scrape and carve the white chocolate to form a smooth bone-shape, being careful not to break through the chocolate to the caramel layer. (If you do, just dab a little more white chocolate on the break and place the bone back into the freezer.)
Use your warm hands to smooth the bones and soften any sharp edges left by the knife. If the bones get too warm and start melting or the caramel starts softening, just stick them back in the freezer. Rotate through bones until all are smoothed and bone-shaped. Freeze for another 10 minutes.
Using a sharp tool, carve messages or signs into the bones, being careful not to press so hard they crack. I used my own ‘Wondersmith language,’ a secret alphabet of symbols I came up with a while ago. If it’s appropriate to your cultural background and beliefs, you could instead use runes or other symbols instead.
Mix about 1/2 tsp of the black cocoa powder with enough vodka to make a paint. Using a clean brush, brush the mixture into the carvings on your bone and around the shaped ends. Wipe the excess off with a slightly damp paper towel. Set aside to dry while you do the rest.
To give a mossy effect, mix a little bit of the matcha tea powder with enough almond extract or vodka to give it a paint-like consistency. Use another paintbrush or piece of paper towel to gently dab it onto the bone, focusing on the ends.
Place the bones in the fridge to dry and harden fully, then set out and enjoy!
No bones or dogs were harmed in the following photo. This is my new dog Grimm admiring my handiwork! He was such a good boy and didn’t even try to taste one of the bones. Instead I hid a little treat for him under the moss. :) See one more photo below!
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