White Pizza with Scarlet Elfcups
Boasting with spring flavors, this deep dish pizza is made with homemade dough and topped with herby ricotta, sautéed scarlet elf cup mushrooms, and wild chives.
Scarlet Elfcups (Sarcoscypha)
These bright red cup fungi appear in early spring, often soon after snowmelt. They grow on medium-sized decaying sticks in damp and shady areas, often by creeks and waterfalls.
Commonly known as scarlet elfcups or scarlet cups, these bright cup fungi are the first fresh mushrooms that grow early in the spring, often when snow is still on the ground. They like to grow in wet and shady areas on decaying hardwood sticks and logs, but sometimes the wood is buried and the mushrooms appear terrestrial. They can survive freezing temperatures, so they don't mind a little snow. They play an important role by supplying nutrients for early spring plants.
They belong to the Sarcoscypha genus in ascomycetes, a fungi phylum commonly known as sac fungi. They are "spore shooters," which means they produce microscopic spores inside special, elongated cells or sacs, known as 'asci' out which they shoot spores into the air, often using splashing water or wind as a dispersal mechanism. Once the mushroom detects change like you touching it or a drop hitting the surface, it will shoot spores into the air!
On the East Coast of the United States, there are three species of scarlet elfcups: Sarcoscypha austriaca, S.dudleyi and S. occidentalis. In Europe, you can find S. austriaca and on the West Coast of the United States, you can find S.coccinea. All of these species are considered scarlet elfcups, even though they have slightly varying morpohological characteristics.
The name Sarcoscypha comes from the Greek 𝘴𝘬𝘺𝘱𝘩𝘰𝘴 meaning drinking bowl, which if perfect for these brightly colored cup fruiting bodies. In European folklore, it was said that wood elves drank morning dew from these bright red fungi. I also read that It has been used as a medicine by the Oneida Native Americans to stop bleeding and was placed under bandages and on the navels of newborns to promote healing.
Many field guides list them as inedible, but you can in fact eat them, provided you cook them properly. I have seen some reports that they can be eaten raw, but that's always an iffy thing to do and I wouldn't recommend it. This year, I've found a lot of them in southwestern Pennsylvania so I decided to try them. They a have a subtle, earthy flavor and their texture is nice too—they don't get mushy when cooked. At first, I tried a little bit and waited, which is always a recommended approach when you're trying new mushrooms.
White Pizza with Scarlet Elfcups
Ever since I learned about scarlet elfcups, I knew I wanted to make something delicious with them. After doing some research, it turns out that many people use them on pizza, because they resemble pepperoni. This year, I was lucky to find enough of these red cup fungi to be able to try them out for the first time.
This pizza is all about spring flavors, combining fresh herbs with creamy ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and the bright scarlet elfcups. I used the same dough from my Buffalo Chicken of the Woods Pizza recipe, but it would be just as delicious on a thin crust as well.
For the herbs, use what you have on hand and what's currently fresh, because what grows together, goes together! I used a combo of garlic mustard leaves (Alliaria petiolata), which is a herbaceous biennial plant with garlic flavor, and wild chives (Allium schoeneprasum), which have a delicate onion flavor. If ramps (Allium tricoccum) are out, those would be delicious as well!
Please be extremely careful cooking and eating foraged mushrooms. Never eat a mushroom that you are not 100% sure of its ID. The best way to learn how to identify and forage for edible mushrooms in your area is to join a local mushroom club or go with a trusted mushroom identifier or a mycologist. Then, even if you are 100% sure of its ID and know it's an edible mushroom, always try small quantities of a new mushroom first before eating a large batch to make sure it sits with you well.
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Proving Time: at least 1.5 hours
- Cook Time: 45 minutes
- 11-12 inch nonstick, ovenproof skillet
- large skillet
- medium saucepan
Scarlet elfcups often grow on partially buried sticks, so cleaning all that dirt off can be a bit time-consuming. To make it a little easier, soak them for a bit, but minimize that time as much as possible—the longer you soak them, the more water they will absorb and the less flavor they retain. I used a brush with natural bristles to clean the dirt off.
Deep Dish Pizza Dough
- ¾ cup warm water (110 degrees)
- 1 tsp active dry yeast (not rapid-rise)
- 2 tsp sugar
- 2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting, sifted
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- 3 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
- olive oil
- nonstick spray
- 1 tbsp butter
- olive oil
- ½ cup ricotta
- ¼ cup spring herbs (chives, garlic mustard) chopped
- 8 oz ball of mozzarella, thinly sliced
- 2 cups scarlet elfcups, cleaned
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp wild chives, chopped
Make Deep Dish Pizza Dough
- Combine ¾ cup warm water, 1 tsp yeast, and 1 tsp sugar in a bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. Add 2 cups sifted flour, 1½ tsp salt, remaining 1 tsp sugar, and 3 tbsp melted butter, stirring until a ragged dough forms.
- Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead with floured hands until elastic and tacky but no longer sticky, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl brushed with olive oil, turning dough to evenly coat.
- Cover with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in volume, 1.5 to 2.5 hours; or refrigerate until doubled in volume, at least 12 hours and up to 3 days, returning to room temperature before using, about 1 to 2 hours.
Make the Pizza
- Preheat oven to 500°F.
- Spray an ovenproof skillet with nonstick spray. Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Shape with your hands into a round that’s slightly larger than the cast-iron skillet you’re using. Place the dough into the skillet and work the edges of dough up the sides of the skillet with your fingertips, creating an edge. Place the skillet on top of the stove and let prove for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, mix ½ cup ricotta and ¼ cup spring herbs together. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- After 20 minutes of proving, adjust the edges of the pizza dough by pushing it up the sides of the skillet again. Pre-bake for 5 minutes in the oven.
- Brush the prebaked pizza with olive oil, spread the herby ricotta all over and arrange the thinly sliced mozzarella on top.
- Bake pizza on top rack until crust and cheese are nicely browned, about 10-15 minutes. Check at 10 minutes and if the dough is already browning, cover pizza with aluminum foil.
- While pizza bakes, heat 1 tbsp butter in small skillet over medium high heat. Add the cleaned scarlet elfcups and cook until the mushrooms start to slightly brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt.
- After 10-15 minutes of baking, transfer skillet to stovetop (watch that handle!). Top with scarlet elfcups and 1 tbsp wild chives. Let pizza rest a few minutes; then, using a spatula (or two), slide or lift the pizza onto a cutting board or platter.
Let me know what you think in the comments! I'd love to hear from you. Head to my Instagram account @fungiwoman for daily posts about my mushroom adventures. Also, check out my shop for some mushroom-inspired products and sign up for the newsletter to get updates.
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