Tag Archives: Halloween

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.

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Pumpkin Bread

Autumn is here when I am, and this year has been beautiful! Although here can’t compare to many parts of the world for colors of the leaves, we have had a good sampling of color. We had rains last month and mostly dry weather the last tow weeks which helped the colors come out and stay Today I drove through every-color leaf blowing over my car and the road; it was wonderful . Today is sunny and warm with a breeze, but it has already been cold at times, so it is time for baking, roasting, stews and soups.

With Halloween coming, Fall and Harvest Festivals going and Thanksgiving on its way,(at least here in them U.S.A.; Canada had theirs and the rest of you, bear with us!), pumpkins are on our minds. It seems everyone has pumpkin recipes up. My cousin’s son ate pumpkin pie practically the whole time he was here last Thanksgiving. One blog posted a pumpkin pancake recipe which I may try on him this year. ( I even saw a recipe for Pumpkin Caramels…I have to find time to try those!) In the U.S.,(where pumpkins were originally found), pumpkins are usually eaten as pumpkin pie. I am going to continue with the sweet pumpkin theme and post a recipe for Pumpkin Bread that is a staple at my house. I hope you try it.

For those of you around the world who may not know, Thanksgiving is celebrated in Canada on the second Monday in October and on the third Thursday of November in the U.S. Many people consider the day before through Sunday in the US as the Thanksgiving holiday ‘season’. People of all faiths or no faith celebrate it at least as a day of, well, of food, friends & family!

So now, for a fellow blogger, Lisa, who requested it, and for all of you:

Pumpkin Bread
This can be made in 2 traditional loaf pans, several more in mini loaf pans, in muffin tins, in a 9X9 square pan, or in a bundt/tube pan .Baking times will vary.

¾ cup butter or margarine, softened (6 oz)
2 cups of granulated sugar
2 large eggs
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda

2 cups or 1 lb. \plain cooked pumpkin OR
one 15 oz can of cooked pumpkin,(NOT pumpkin pie mix)

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger } ground spices
1 ½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp cloves
OR
Approx. 1 ½ Tbs. pumpkin pie spice

2 cups all-purpose flour (Sifted … If you do not have a sifter, use a mesh sieve to shake the flour into a bowl and then measure it.)

Butter and flour the pans, (or use baking spray). Preheat oven to 325F.
With electric mixer, cream the butter, sugar and eggs until light .Add the salt, baking powder and baking soda; mix well; add the spices, mix. Scrape sides and bottom of mixer bowl and continue to mix thoroughly.
Add the sited flour alternately with the pumpkin puree. Mix thoroughly, again, scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl and mix again.
Put into baking vessels, filling only 2/3 full,(any extra can go into a smaller baking vessel).Push the batter slightly away from the middle; it will tend to ‘hump up’ too much otherwise. Bake until done in the middle,(test the middle with a toothpick or thin knife blade, when it comes out clean, it’s done).Large pans may take 40+ minutes; muffins about 25 min.

This can be served alone, or with a drizzle of

Icing

1 Tbs. meringue powder or dried egg whites
¼ cup water
2 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
(it will be thin; if it is too thin, add more sugar)
You can add spices, vanilla extract or brandy to this. You can sprinkle the top with nuts before drizzling the icing , which is especially nice if served as a bundt cake, a loaf or individual cakes.

OR
You can bake it well, and slice the bread to make

Tea Sandwiches

fill with a cream cheese filling:

3 ounces of cream cheese, softened
mix with
1 Tbs. softened butter
1-2 Tbs. confectioner’s sugar

Add: ground nuts, vanilla, any of the spices included in the bread recipe, 1 Tablespoon of pumpkin puree and /or 2 Tbs. ground dates
Mix or match