Part of the fun of Halloween — or any other holiday for that matter — is baking. Creating those special sweets shaped like pumpkins or candy canes is a tradition I like to maintain in our house.
Baking cookies is a perfect way to involve everyone. It’s a simple and creative activity for the kids with delicious rewards. Who wouldn’t want to help?
I dare say, however, it isn’t a low-fat pastime, because I usually stick to a traditional Scottish shortbread recipe for cookies like these, which calls for a pound of butter.
It only takes a few ingredients to make these rich, crisp cookies, and the flavor and decorating possibilities are virtually endless.
You can make a large batch and freeze half for another occasion. Frozen dough will keep for about six weeks, then I recommend baking it before the taste becomes stale.
For this batch, I made some Halloween-inspired shapes – Jack-o’-lanterns and candy corn — but it’s flexible enough for almost any theme.
- Candied Ginger and Cracked Pepper
- Rosemary and Sea Salt
- Dried Apricot and Cardamom
- Crushed Peppermint (perfect for the holidays)
- Cocoa with Orange Zest
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 cup corn starch
- ½ cup super fine sugar*
- ½ tsp. sea salt
- 1 lb. unsalted sweet cream butter (4 sticks)
- 1 tbs. pure vanilla extract
For Halloween décor:
- Red and yellow food coloring
Sift all dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside.
Chop butter into small pieces and place into mixing bowl. Don’t let it get too soft, but let it soften a wee bit before you begin to cream.
When it’s ready, whip on high in your mixer or with hand-held mixer or by hand, with a spoon.
When the butter looks lighter, add your sugar and cream until it is light and fluffy.
*If you don’t have superfine sugar available, you can process regular granulated sugar until powdery as a substitute. Superfine sugar, or in some recipes caster sugar, is what is says – a very super fine sugar. This sugar melts easier in baking, and works well in recipes such as this one.
After creaming, begin adding your flour mixture in small batches, mixing well with each addition.
Add the vanilla and mix slightly more, removing the dough when it looks like it is kneadable.
Remove your dough and knead two or three times to incorporate all crumbs.
This dough will have to chill for about 30 minutes before you can manipulate, or the butter will turn it into a big, squishy mess.
For this recipe, I separated the dough into three balls, placed one back in the mixer and blended in orange and another I blended with yellow.
After adding the color, I flattened each section of dough into a large, flat circle, wrapped in parchment paper and chilled them in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes, or until they became firm.
Once chilled, roll out each color and cut out your cookies. For the pumpkins, I rolled out the orange, cut out the pumpkins with a circle jar ring and sketched out the Jack-o’-lantern face, cutting out the eyes and mouth with a small paring knife.
For the candy corn, roll out three long “snakes,” one of each color dough. Line them up and press them together. Cut diagonally across the three colors, creating tri-color triangles – i.e. candy corn!
Place your cookies on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and chill again in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
Once chilled, place cookies directly into your oven and bake for exactly 25 minutes. Take them out as soon as they begin to get the slightest touch of brown.
Make sure to set a few aside, because this trick-or-treat won’t last long!
Twinkle VanWinkle has more than 22 years of professional cooking under her apron strings, feeding thousands of friends, family and other folks. She baked apple pies for the “Oprah Winfrey Show” and has appeared on Food Network's “The Best Of...” Along with producing dynamic lifestyle content for LIN Media, she is a mother, urban gardener, chef, musician and social media fanatic.
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