Halloween Entertaining/Spice and Basic Cut-Out Cookies

Halloween is just around the corner! However you celebrate it, with adults, children or both, spookily or more “Fall Festival-ly”, have a good, safe time.

I make two types of cookie dough, refrigerated cut-outs, but I only use half of the recipe and freeze the other half to use for Thanksgiving, or, if there are too many goodies, I even wait and use them at Christmas.
I also used to make a cake, usually chocolate. I would decorate it with a twisted tree and fallen leaves, and mix or match any of the following: a jack-o-lantern, moon, cat, ghost, spider, spider web, depending on the size of the cake or my mood. However, I have not made one in years and made the half-recipe cookies because I found that with all the candy, it was real food that people would go looking for after a while. Even at church parties, and lots of kids, a large cake would not be completely gone at the end, but all of whatever meat they served would be wiped out.

Candy is the sweet of choice for Halloween.

When we moved into the house we have now, there was a ‘chicken house’ in the back yard, behind the garage and a storage barn. It was about 7X11 feet, with three or four doors on one side, (that looked like screened prison cells), and a loft. After a few years, my sons decided to make it into a ‘haunted house’ for any trick-or-treater who wanted to give it a try. It was clever, (if at times a bit cheesy), but a good time was had by all: the boys, whatever friends they had that came to help them and the brave-enough neighborhood kids who went through. And before, after and in between sets of doorbell ringers, the teenagers ate.

I would have a soup and chili, sausages, hot dogs or sliced meats, snack crackers, chips and pretzels. I’d have hot cocoa and tea and sodas, but mostly food they could eat quickly and still get warm, as most Halloweens here get cool if not cold, at least, by the time they stopped. Usually the soup would be Baby Meatball Stew or Fiesta Day Soup (September Archives).
And, of course, some cookies.

Here are two very reliable cut-out cookie recipes. The Spice Cookies are perfect for Autumn. The Basic Cookie is just that, so basic you can do anything with it. It is very popular with all ages and was the biggest seller in my bakery for any holiday and as a Sugar Cookie in-between. Both are very good with coffee, tea or cocoa.

Pumpkin-shaped cookies are perfect for Halloween with or without Jack-o-lantern features.
I often make bats and ghosts; there are many types of shapes .For Thanksgiving, I use the pumpkin –shapes without faces, turkeys and I always make Autumn leaf-shaped and colored cookies. You can make scarecrows out of gingerbread men shapes, (or as I have seen recently, mummies for Halloween.)

Basic Cookie

One cup (=2 sticks) of softened butter (preferable to margarine)
1 cup of sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. baking powder
4 tsp half and half or whole milk
3 cups of sifted flour

Chose the flavoring:
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. pure almond extract
or my favorite
1 Tbsp Brandy, plain or Apricot (Apricot is good for Easter and Spring)

In a mixer or with hand mixer, cream butter, add sugar and mix well. Add the baking powder and flavoring of choice. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl often. Add the eggs and beat until very fluffy. Add the mild or cream, blend thoroughly. Add the flour, one-half cup at a time and beat until smooth before adding the next half-cup. Beat an additional two minutes, Place in a smaller bowl and chill for at least 4 hours, (it can remain in the refrigerator for several days). Dough will be soft; do not be tempted to add more flour. If you are going to make a half-batch, divide at this point; wrap in plastic and put into a freezer bag .It will keep nicely for many months, ready to be thawed in the refrigerator and used as you need it.
When chilled, take a small amount out at a time and place on a well-floured board or clean table. Roll gently with a well-floured rolling pin, adding flour as needed, (but not too much, as it will make the cookies hard.) Roll to ¼ inch thick. Cut with floured cookie cutters and transfer to greased, cooking-spray covered or parchment paper covered baking sheets. Do not put them too close as they will rise, grow and run into each other. (If you are making sugar cookies, sprinkle with granulated sugar at this point.)
Bake in a pre-heated 325F oven for about 15 minutes or until slightly browned on the bottom and edges.
Remove, place on baking racks and cook completely. These may now be wrapped well, placed in a freezer bag with the air removed and frozen for several months, plain or iced with Royal Icing, (directions below)

Spice Cookies

1 ½ cups of butter or margarine (3 sticks), softened
1 1/4 cup of white sugar (or 1 cup white, ¼ cup brown)
½ cup mild-flavored molasses (NOT black-strap)
1 large egg
2 ½ tsp baking powder

Ground spices {1 tsp. cloves
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. allspice
1 Tbs. cinnamon
2 Tbs. ginger
or 6 Tbs. allspice

Cream the butter and sugars plus molasses and baking powder. Add spices. Scrape bowl. Add flour ½ cup at a time, beating well between additions and scraping sides of the bowl often. Dough will be soft and firm after it is chilled (If dividing, do so now. Wrap half of the dough in plastic wrap, place in freezer bag with all the air removed. Freeze up to 4- 6 months. Thaw in refrigerator when ready to use.) Chill dough for at least 4 hours before rolling, cutting and baking as in directions above for Basic Cookies. Bake at 350F for approx 12 minutes or until firm, (finger will not leave a dent when touched). Cool and freeze or ice with Royal Icing.

Decorate with Royal Icing made with 6 Tbsp. meringue powder, or dehydrated egg whites, ¼ cup water and 3 cups sifted powdered sugar, flavorings and colorings. (Royal Icing mix is available in some areas where cake decorating supplies are sold. Original Royal Icing is made with raw egg whites and should not be used as it is unsafe with possible contaminants and also will spoil.) You may have to adjust the firmness, (more sugar or water). Too thin and the icing may run or the designs may blend; too thick and you may not be able to work with it. If your designs are not perfect, go ahead and blur them with two or more colors swirled together. This is especially effective with leaf shapes for Autumn, Christmas bells, Easter eggs…you get the picture. Use a pastry bag or a zipper-close sandwich bag with a corner snipped-off to simply outline the cookie with icing, (good for bats and pumpkins).
Or spread icing and top with nuts, sprinkles, colored sugars or jimmies.

The Chicken House was torn down a few years ago, ravaged by time and termites. Although my sons only did the Haunted House in it for three or four years over 10 years ago, the neighbors still talk about it.We’ve had fun.I hope you do, too.

27 thoughts on “Halloween Entertaining/Spice and Basic Cut-Out Cookies

  1. eclecticlamb

    I don’t think I have ever used half and half in a cookie. It seems like it will be good. Also the apricot brandy is a good idea. I have used blackberry brandy in cookies.

    1. tonettejoyce Post author

      I considered blackberry in this one, but the cookie is very light and I’m not sure it’s a good fit with this recipe…but I would love to try the ones you make!!!
      Rum could work here, too.
      Thanks for the visit and stretching my imagination!

  2. tonette joyce Post author

    Thank you,Judy.The Spice ones are great for the winter holidays; with a little tweaking, the Basic ones are a year ’round favorite.
    Thank you so much for the visit and compliment!

  3. Hotly Spiced

    Your Halloween celebrations sound like so much fun. We don’t celebrate to that same scale here in Australia but it is becoming bigger each year. I am expecting trick or treaters to visit so I had better make these cookies! xx

  4. tonette joyce Post author

    It is pretty big here, but there are some people who think it is ‘pagan’ and won’t celebrate it.(They don’t understand at all). I have to admit that crazy scary wanna-be bad people do bad things and use Halloween as an excuse, so we can’t give out homemade goodies any more.Too bad.I hope you have a good time and enjoy the cookies!
    Thanks, Charlie Louie.

  5. tonette joyce Post author

    Oh, Sorry,Cass; I hadn’t read your newest blog! Please do try’ flooding’ with the version I told of the royal icing. I don’t know about Australia, but in the U.S. the egg supply is contaminated with salmonella.I don;t even trust the free-range ones, as I am not happy with how any of them are being handled and stored, even if all is on the up-and -up…and I am not sure who to trust.
    Love your spider web cookies!

  6. tonette joyce Post author

    I am waaaay behind on Halloween this year;I’m painting and getting ready for cousins coming in for Thanksgiving.But next year…!
    Thank you for coming and and your kind remarks.

  7. tonette joyce Post author

    Oh, I hope you do, Lisa! They are always a big hit…and I’ll have more cookie recipes coming up for Christmas next month.I make a coco-gingerbread cut-out that is a ‘Have-to’ for family and friends. (I always cut them into Gingerbread me and Angels).
    Thanks for checking in; I’ll be back to see you, too.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      Actually, they are…with all the fancy things I have made, these are two of the most popular and my ‘go-to’ holiday cut-outs. More of my most requested coming up for Christmas.
      Thanks for all your support!

  8. Angela Schroeder

    I love your basic cookie recipe. Its now our go to when making cutout cookies. I have heard that instead of flouring a surface some people use powdered sugar. They say it works the same but instead of making the cookie harder it makes it sweeter. I was just wondering if you had heard of this and what your thoughts on it were. Don’t want to try it if it will ruin the cookie.

    1. Tonette Joyce Post author

      I would think that powdered sugar would be sticky, Angie. I also thinks that it adds way too much sweetness and carbs. If you watch the texture of your dough, you can keep it lighter and use the flowered surface to add heft. It takes practice to judge the exact amount of flour, because different brands have different weights and the dampness in the air also changes how much wetness is absorbed. Plus, there is always the differences in the size of eggs, varying from brand-to-brand on how big ‘large’ is!
      Try using less flour and letting the dough sit for a few moments; it usually stiffens up, so that you can use less flour when rolling.
      Let me know how these work for you!

      1. Angela Schroeder

        I wondered if about that with the powdered sugar. We did these cookies last Christmas and it is by far the BEST sugar cookie recipe that the kids and I have tried. We loved that these didn’t have that cardboard texture like we had come across in others.

      2. Tonette Joyce Post author

        Ah, yes, the soft versus crunchy cookie debate! Sugar cookies and chocolate chip divide camps within families. My siblings and I debate now whether the chocolate cookies are better when they come out puffier or flatter. The chocolate cookies usually respond to the moisture content, but sugar and chocolate chip recipes change usually because of the difference in the shortening/butter.margarine and how they are introduced. Thanks for being here ,Angie.I have really neglected this blog.

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