Food & Drink

Hauntingly good: Halloween treats let you have fun with your food

Bread witches’ fingers with pepperoni nails. Pretzel stick bones. A chocolate web spun on a pumpkin tart.

These are just a few cool ways to have some Halloween fun with your food.

With the creepiest night of the year just days away, it’s time to get planning.

“Ghoulish Goodies” by Sharon Bowers (Storey Publishing, $14.95) features fun yet creatively frightening and creepy food. Bowers is a former producer of Food Network’s Web site, which still features some of her Halloween creations.

About Halloween, Bowers writes, “it’s the first fun holiday that comes along after the kids go back to school, and they throw themselves into it wholeheartedly.”

The book is extremely kid-friendly with easy-to-follow recipes so kids can lend a hand. It’s also tame on the gross-out scale.

There are ideas for adult party appetizers such as the Witches’ Knuckles — a savory pastry — and Bandaged Fingers — cocktail weiners wrapped in tortillas — and recipes for a Halloween supper.

Cupcakes continue to be a hot treat for Halloween and Bowers offers a half-dozen creepy cupcake ideas. Each one has its own recipe for the cake because Bowers prefers not to use cake mixes.

Martha Stewart Halloween. This special-issue magazine ($6.95) is a yearly favorite from the doyenne of food and entertaining. It features more than “125 ideas for parties, pumpkins, tricks, treats and ghoulish getups.” There are an array of ideas for decorating with pumpkins and gourds, making costumes for everyone (including pets), clip art and templates for decorating jack-o’-lanterns and a host of food ideas.

Recipes run from frightening and ghoulishly fun to ones that simply mark the season, such as Jack-O’-Lantern Spice Cookies and Chocolate Caramel Apples.

“Extreme Halloween: The Ultimate Guide to Making Halloween Scary Again” by Tom Nardone (Pedigree, $14.95). From Birmingham, Nardone is the guy who carves ghoulish and gross designs on pumpkins, sets them on fire and connects them to make scorpions and serpents.

Author of the best-selling “Extreme Pumpkins” and “Extreme Pumpkins II” (HP Trade, $13.95), Nardone is on a mission to put the fright back into Halloween with horrifying decorations and creepy food like a banana pudding blob and a meat head.

WITCHES’ KNUCKLES

Makes: 36

Preparation time: 30 minutes

Total time: 50 minutes

1 cup water

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon chili powder

4 eggs

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

4 ounces extra-sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 1 cup)

1 egg yolk, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon water

9 pieces of sliced pepperoni cut into quarters

Dried whole rosemary leaves

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper. Place the water and butter in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour, salt, cumin and chili powder. Return the mixture to the heat and cook, beating constantly with a wooden spoon until the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the pan, 1 to 2 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir for 1 to 2 minutes, until slightly cooled. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the mustard and cheese.

Put the dough in a plastic resealable bag and cut a 1/2-inch hole in one corner. Squeeze 3-inch-long fingers onto the prepared baking sheets. Brush them with the egg yolk mixture and press a pepperoni fingernail onto each tip. Lay a few rosemary needles just beneath the nail and in the middle of the finger as knuckle lines.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until the fingers are golden brown and crisp.

Serve hot or warm.

Note: You can make these in advance and store them in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Reheat for 6 to 8 minutes in a 350-degree oven before serving.

From “Ghoulish Goodies” by Sharon Bowers (Storey, $14.95)

FUNNY BONES

Makes: 36 bones

Preparation time: 45 minutes

Total time: 45 minutes (plus setting time)

1 package white chocolate chips (2 cups)

36 pretzel thins

72 mini marshmallows (about 1 cup)

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or wax paper.

Place the chips in a double boiler over just-simmering water and melt, stirring frequently. As soon as the chips are just melted (there may even be a few solid ones left), remove the pan from the heat and remove the top section of the double boiler so the chocolate’s temperature doesn’t keep rising.

Stick marshmallows rounded sides onto both ends of the pretzels.

Dip each pretzel in the chocolate and lift out with a fork, letting the excess drip back in the bowl. Lay the bones on the baking sheet and refrigerate for 30 minutes to harden the chocolate. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator or at a cool room temperature.

From “Ghoulish Goodies” by Sharon Bowers (Storey, $14.95)

PUMPKIN CHOCOLATE TART

Makes: one 10-inch tart

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

3/4 cup firmly packed light-brown sugar

8 ounces creme fraîche or sour cream

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 prepared Chocolate Crust (recipe follows)

2 ounces semisweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, creme fraîche or sour cream, eggs, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and cloves until smooth. Pass mixture through a fine sieve set over a clean bowl; discard solids. Pour filling into prepared crust.

Bake until filling is set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack, and let cool at least 30 minutes.

Set a heatproof bowl, or the top of a double boiler, over a pan of barely simmering water. Melt chocolate in bowl, stirring occasionally; remove from heat. Transfer chocolate to a parchment paper cone or resealable bag with a tiny hole cut in one corner. Pipe about 15 evenly spaced lines radiating out from the center of the tart. Pipe curved lines around the perimeter of tart, connecting each spoke to make a web design. Continue piping curved lines, spacing them closer together as you near the center. Refrigerate the tart until set, at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

From Martha Stewart Halloween magazine 2009. Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen

CHOCOLATE CRUST

Makes: one 10-inch tart shell

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Total time: 1 hour

1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 large egg

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, cinnamon and cloves. Add butter; mix on low speed until butter is the size of small peas, about 5 minutes. Add egg; mix until ingredients come together to form a dough.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to just thicker than 1 inch. Brush off excess flour; transfer dough to a 10-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. Press dough into bottom and up sides of pan; trim excess flush with edge. Lightly prick bottom of dough all over with a fork. Chill until firm, about 30 minutes. Bake shell until firm, about 15 minutes. Immediately sprinkle chocolate over bottom of shell; smooth with a spatula.

From Martha Stewart Halloween magazine 2009. Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen

LEMONY SUGAR COOKIE MONSTERS

Makes: 3 dozen cookies

Preparation time: 15 minutes (plus chilling time)

Total time: 1 hour

2 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon fine salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 teaspoons lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

10 drops orange (or combine red and yellow) food coloring (optional)

Assorted dried fruit and nuts

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

In a second large bowl, beat butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, about 30 seconds, then beat in 1 egg. Add the lemon juice, zest and vanilla and beat again until smooth, about 30 seconds more. Add the flour mixture and beat to combine.

Add food coloring (if using) and beat again, or knead by hand, just until color is evenly distributed. Shape dough into two logs then wrap each snugly in parchment paper, twisting the ends in opposite directions like a piece of candy to tighten each roll and make it uniformly round and about 6 inches long. Chill for 2 hours. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water together in a small bowl to make an egg wash; set aside.

Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut dough crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices and transfer to prepared baking sheets, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart.

Working with a few cookies at a time, brush tops with egg wash then decorate with dried fruit and nuts to make monster faces on each. Bake until light golden brown at the edges, 12 to 13 minutes. Cool completely.

From Whole Foods Market at Ann Arbor, Mich.

Note: You can also roll out this lemony dough and cut out different Halloween shapes.

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