Posts Tagged ‘Halloween’

Scared Twixless

Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream

My Jack O’Lantern…this year

Please don’t let Kathleen Turner read this.

Ever since I saw the movie “Serial Mom” many years ago I have been apprehensive about doing things after Labor Day that she may deem inappropriate. (Savvy viewers may recall the scene from said movie where she has a rather lethal encounter with Patty Hearst regarding the wearing of white shoes after Labor Day.)

Yes, I am fully aware that the movie was a work of fiction, and that she will not be bludgeoning me if I break a seasonal rule, but this rather ghoulish movie has been on my mind because of Halloween.

I think I’ve had just about enough of Halloween already. I have a friend who starts serving Candy Corn before I’ve had a chance to finish shaking the beach sand out of my sneakers. We have noticed that a majority of Candy Corn being sold this year lists Mexico as its provenance. One can only posit a wild theory that this is somehow related to its apparent addictive qualities.

My yearly complaint? As a happy home baker I really cannot do much on Halloween. I cannot make Candy Corn. Why would I try? Yes I could frost cupcakes to look like candy corn. I could make Candy Corn-colored cocktails. Alas, I’m a failure at kitsch.

I’ve gone the cookie route in the past…happily and with excellent results. But it always comes down to the same question: On Halloween doesn’t everyone really want a KitKat bar? I cannot compete on their turf.

Here’s where breaking a rule after Labor Day comes in, albeit a rule of my own making. I don’t know why I have this rule—it may be a simple case of waist preservation—but I don’t make ice cream after Labor Day. A silly rule indeed, and like most rules, made to be broken.

This year my Jack O’Lantern will be Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream. Pumpkin Spice is on my brain of late due to some publicity about there being a shortage of the spices used. (Yes, this was news.) Every day when I make my Starbucks run I am greeted by huge window decals advertising Pumpkin Spice Latte.

Read that sentence again. Yes, I said “Every day when I make my Starbucks run…” Clearly I am a Starbucks fan. Sadly though, my brew of choice is black coffee; I simply cannot get into the big drinks they make that are topped off with swirls of whipped cream.  When I get my frequent drinker rewards and order a simple, humble black coffee, the folks behind the counter wrinkle their noses in collective disbelief and ask a unified “That’s it? And not even a venti?”

The truth is, I do love those drinks but to be even more truthful I must claim that for the same fat and calories I’d rather have a dish of ice cream.

Pumpkin Ice Cream can be tricky, as the ideal balance of flavors is really a matter of personal choice. My Mother’s guideline with anything pumpkin, including Pumpkin Pie, is that she likes it to taste like pumpkin.

I have an ice cream recipe that I really like—I used it this summer to make Peppermint Stick Ice Cream—so that’s my base. I merely substituted one cup of canned pumpkin for the peppermint candy. This recipe directs you to push the cooled, cooked custard base through a sieve before churning it in the ice cream freezer to make the ice cream silky smooth. Following that logic, I also pushed the pumpkin through a sieve. This ended up being a good idea. The ice cream was delicately smooth, and with a mere whisper of a half teaspoon of cinnamon and pinch of clove the ice cream had the perfect, unmistakable pumpkin flavor my Mom will love.

The temptation remains to fiddle with the recipe a bit. Please feel free to do so; my mind has already wandered to wondering if brown sugar would add a bit of complexity. What about a touch of coffee to make it Pumpkin Spice Latte in honor of my Barista’s seasonal treat?

And you can still have your KitKat bar…

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

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Happy Tweetoween

You Look Like You’ve Seen a Ghost

Meringue Ghosts

Meringue Ghosts

Let’s dispense with the most important part first: I don’t think the guys in the picture look like the Klan. On the other hand, my head did go right there. I think they’re much cuter than that—their little curly points give them a Tim Burton quality. C’mon, only your waistline could find them demonic.

Oh well: modern life. If you’re a New Yorker you’ve probably lost count of the times you’ve seen people parading around town on Halloween (or any time, for that matter) and thought, “Oh, that’s just wrong!” So, why should I cook myself into a self-conscious stew over little blobs of egg white and sugar?

Confidentially, I find Halloween to be one of the trickiest times of the year to navigate. I was never one for dressing up; well into my twenties I was still wearing the same scratchy Yogi Bear costume my Mom bought me in Kindergarten. Oh, perhaps I exaggerate, but only to highlight that when it comes to Halloween costumes I feel totally devoid of creativity or desire. (Although, I have always thought it would be fun to dress as a matador. I like the hat. Um, is there a shrink within the sound of my voice?)

Only my friends who have kids dress up. The rest of us run home and eat our “just in case” candy. You know: the candy you buy knowing full well that you won’t get any Trick or Treaters, but buy just in case you do.

You would think that on Halloween someone like me would have all sorts of appropriately themed goodies on hand, but I resist the temptation of making anything pumpkin, orange and black, or blood red. I feel intimidated by the kitsch, for the truth is, kitsch requires a deft hand. Far from being predictable, Halloween kitsch knows no rules, and can be successful (or dreadful) when overdone, underdone, or somewhere in the middle. The recipe for Halloween is a tricky balance of humor, ghoulishness, and sugar. Look at the picture above. I think I got two out of three, and as the old expression goes, that aint bad.

In past years I’ve made cupcakes with orange frosting, Jack O’Lantern cookies (which were very cute), and other things, but I can never seem to step out of the shadow of the star of the day: that great big bag of tiny candy bars. I can’t make a better Kit Kat bar then our friends at Nestlé.

So where do my little meringue ghosts fit in? I consider them edible decoration—part of what Sandra Lee would call a “tablescape.” Scoff at Ms. Lee if you must, (and she is likely scoffing all the way to the bank), but she has a point. Yes, you can toss the bag of Kit Kats into a bowl. But then what? Sandra Lee would have the interns rig a black light, the better to make her “glow in the dark” cupcake frosting shimmer against the dry ice mist that the little fan hidden behind the table will swirl “just so”.

I don’t have a starving intern, so I made a very simple meringue (no cooking of the sugar is required), stuck little black dragees on them to look like eyes, and baked them until they were crunchy on the outside and still a bit gooey on the inside. Simple, but fun. They make a great souvenir, and the little “Boo!” banner can also be used to identify the food on a buffet table, or act as a place card for a sit down dinner. Place cards? Really? Yeah, why not. It’s a special day, and even your kids might get a kick out of them at your regular family meal.

If I am gun shy about Halloween kitsch, then I will happily practice the dark art of whimsy instead. (Ms. Lee and I are just very different people with the same goal. I’m okay with that and I’ll bet she is too.)

In a bit of timely irony, I became convinced while making the meringue ghosts this past weekend that my kitchen is again haunted. Yes, again. I was told when I moved in that the former occupant was a retired Nun. (I swear I am not making this up.) Evidently in her later years she became a bit of a recluse and pack rat, and when she died all of the stuff she had hoarded was tossed and a “to the studs” renovation was required. I get the feeling that she is mad and taking it out on me—in the kitchen. (Just ask any parochial school graduate about crossing a Nun.) Food would burn and things would fall off the counter when I was across the room. One day I heard an odd creaking noise and discovered that one of the cabinets was falling off the wall.

Shortly after I moved in a friend gave me a sage smudge stick—basically a bundle of dried sage leaves artfully lashed together. I had never heard of one before and had no idea what to do with it. I was told to light it so that it smokes, and that the smoke would drive away any bad spirits. Heck, I must have “he’ll try anything” stamped on my forehead. But try it, I did.

I can totally understand how this would drive away bad spirits. The dense smoke the thing gave off almost drove me away, but I persisted, frantically waving the smoking thing in every corner as instructed (supposedly bad spirits retreat into the corners), and then standing there, burning bush in hand, I wondered, “How the heck do I put this thing out?” (I snubbed it out in the sink.) It seemed to work for a while. Things stopped falling off the counter on their own. Peace reigned.

Then last week all heck broke loose. A can fell off a shelf and directly onto my foot. (It didn’t hurt. Much.) The first batch of meringue ghosts browned in the oven like they had gone down to Puerto Rico for a little beach time. (They’re supposed to stay white.) And the kicker, the thing that convinced me that something was awry? While making the second batch, my piping bag burst open at the seams. I thought those things were supposed to last forever. I was wrong.

Or was I haunted?

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Click here for the recipe for Meringue Ghosts.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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Scary tweets…

Blood? Guts? Only after a good breakfast…

Maple Walnut Scones

Maple Walnut Scones with dried papaya: not just for Halloween.

Halloween falls on a Sunday this year. For those of any age who are heavily into the costume drama of the holiday, this reduces the stress of having to run home from work or school in order to change into a vampire bat (or witch, or Spider Man, or Princess.)

When I was a kid we were still allowed to Trick or Treat door to door unencumbered—uh, I mean—unaccompanied by parents. We would run out the door, sometimes with a time limit (“I expect you back in one hour.”) or sometimes with a geographic limit (“No farther than Parker Street, then come home, understand?”) but that was it.

By necessity, parents are now so heavily involved in the Trick Or Treat event that it makes you wonder who is left at home to hand out candy. Living in New York City makes for an amusing Halloween. Streams of costumed little kids, wrangled by their parents (or is it the other way around?), walk up and down West End Avenue, usually on their way to a party. I fear there is very little door to door activity left, even within apartment buildings. It has been years since I needed to buy a bag of mini Trick or Treat candy bars; if I get any spooky visitors this year they’ll get full-sized bars of my beloved Damak Chocolate. Hmmm. What will become of that chocolate if no one rings the bell? (A short lived problem, I promise.)

A Sunday Halloween means that the whole family can start the day together with a good old fashioned Halloween breakfast. What, you ask, is a good old fashioned Halloween breakfast? I don’t know. I’m about to make it up as I write this blog posting. It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I don’t need much of an excuse to mark any holiday or event with food.

You could make a good solid argument for having a good solid breakfast on Halloween. When I was a kid returning from Trick or Treating, my Mom made me eat a good solid dinner before I could inhale all that candy. I think she believed a little meatloaf in my stomach would counterbalance the several tons of sugar I had toted home. Of course, in those days the worst that could happen from eating too much candy was that you’d get “a bad tummy ache.”

Short of eating candy for breakfast, how can you bring a bit of Halloween into the morning meal? It’s a concept-y thing. A restrained dash of kitsch is fine, but please: no scrambled eggs masquerading as brains, and if you insist on calling your strawberry jelly “bloody hearts on toast” at least make sure it’s good toast.

So, no, kitsch is not my cup of breakfast tea. I prefer a bit more subtlety, a wink where others may enjoy a full-on stare; there’ll be time for spooky stuff and candy later on in the day. Halloween is really the first of the big cool weather holidays, the first step in the slide to the Christmas home plate. Why not commit to a weekend breakfast with the whole family present and accounted for? In some families that can be enough of a novelty to make the day special.

Leave your usual harried breakfast on the shelf. I love breakfast cereal, but why not mark this occasion with a scrambled egg or two, some organic breakfast sausage, brew a bit of fragrant hazelnut coffee, and indulge in a few items from the list we call “a little somethin'”

Adding a dollop of canned prepared pumpkin to pancake batter will lend them an autumn hue and flavor suited to the occasion. Cranberry Nut Muffins will give a gentle preview of Thanksgiving a few weeks hence. Sounds good.

My “little somethin'” of choice this year are Candy Corn Scones. The name is a full-on embrace of kitsch, but the scones are indeed a subtle wink: no actual candy corn was injured baking them. The trick is that you can enjoy this treat long after the costumes have been put away. Just what is it that makes them Candy Corn Scones?

I knew I needed a bit of candy corn color, and the question was: what could I add to the scones that would have the right color (unreal autumn orange) and the right flavor (mildly sweet without being icky) but that would not melt away while the scones baked?

A cruise up and down the dried fruit and nut shelves at my supermarket made the choice easy. Dried apricots could have worked, but their pale yellow was a bit too restrained. Dried papaya fit the bill.

A basic scone is a simple, not terribly sweet quick bread. While traditionalists may insist on making scones with cream, I used 2% Greek yogurt, a compromise that provided rich texture and a buttermilk-like tang. Instead of sugar I sweetened the dough with maple syrup which was then echoed in a muddy brown maple syrup glaze that I drizzled on top after the scones cooled. And to reinforce the little nibble aesthetic of candy corn, I cut the unbaked dough into 2” x 2” triangles, insanely small in a world of King Kong-sized breakfast goodies. But the small size makes them somehow less intimidating; if you’ve gone to the trouble to bake scones you don’t want folks’ first question to be, “Will you share one with me?”

And the question remains: should I dress as an astronaut or Zorro…again?

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Click here for the recipe for Maple Walnut Scones.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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Sticky Halloween

Caramel Apples

But did you really need those fillings?

Have you noticed that when it comes to Halloween we very happily stick to tradition? Once a Milky Way lover always a Milky Way lover, eh? You’ll get no complaint from me on this: fill my “Trick or Treat” bag with Hershey’s Miniatures and I’m happy as a clam — and very likely riding the subway next to someone dressed like one.

One of my Halloween traditions is Jack O’Lantern cookies, a tradition that got rolling when I realized my pumpkin carving skills lacked verve.

While it would be fun to regale you with stories of my Halloweens gone by, of bucolic adventures in pumpkin patches, and of coming back home to warm spiced cider after a chilly carouse collecting candy while wearing some brilliantly frightening costume that my Mother made from an old slipcover and a Quaker Oats box, the truth was a bit more…ordinary. I dressed as Yogi Bear in a costume we bought at Woolworth’s. This elaborate costume consisted of a hard plastic mask and a cape made from some scratchy material. Hey, what did I know? I thought it was great. I loved Yogi: he self-identified as being smarter than the average bear. (Everything I know about hubris I learned from Hannah-Barbera.)

Costumes aside, I’ve been trying to think of another holiday where store-bought stuff generally trumps anything you could make at home. Are you going to tell me that you can make candy corn better than the pros? I guess there’s also Easter, the other candy-fixated holiday. I could produce a heckuva Marshmallow Peep if I had to, but I know the real thing is better.

I claim one major and very personal loophole to all of this, at least where Halloween is concerned. I can’t abide store-bought Caramel Apples. Like Tuna Fish Salad, these are something that I must make at home. There are a couple of reasons why: the first is simply that I like a certain kind of apple, and if I am putting my poor, innocent fillings at risk, I like a nice cool, crunchy apple waiting for me on the other side of the caramel. No amount of Caramel can compensate for a mealy sub-par apple. (Apple snob!)

The second is that I can tell when an apple has not been not freshly dipped. The ones you buy in the store have been allowed to sit too long, and the apple sometimes has begun to seep into the caramel, and the caramel may have started to melt a bit. An iffy proposition at best. (Caramel snob!)

There is good news: as recipes go Caramel Apples are as easy as it gets: Insert stick into apple. Melt a bag of Kraft Caramels. Dip apples. (Done.)

For willpower-challenged folk (me), the hardest part is unwrapping the caramels. Physically easy, yes, but try unwrapping the entire bag without popping a few in your mouth.  The second hardest part is finding the caramels. I remember a time when bags of Kraft Caramels were everywhere and usually displayed with the rest of the Halloween candy. Lately I find I have to hunt around the supermarket; I can’t find them in the drugstore, my Halloween candy pusher of choice. Ah, the lowly caramel. If Snickers are the George Clooney of Halloween candy, caramels must be Bob Denver.

One hint you may find useful: room temperature apples dip better than chilled apples; the caramel sticks to warm apples in a very smooth, even coat. If you use chilled apples you’ll cause the caramel to firm up too soon. (It does look a little spooky though.) In the picture above, the apple on the left was chilled. The others were room temperature and have the desired smooth, glossy look.

When you’re a kid it seems like you can eat Halloween candy without a worry in the world. While my love of caramel apples has not diminished, every time I take a bite I can’t help but think that I am potentially helping my dentist pay for a really nice beach house. With that in mind, allow me to present Caramel Apples v2.0 (rated M for Mature teeth.)

Let’s start with the presentation: since warm caramel sticks to your teeth less than cold, why not serve Caramel Apples hors d’oeuvre style, sliced, tooth-picked, and accompanied by a small pot of barely warm melted caramels for dipping. (Omit the toothpicks and this is mighty kid friendly too.) I would plop a whole dipped apple in the middle of the tray – mostly for the sake of drama.

And keep in mind that the smooth sweetness of caramel makes it a great delivery system for all manner of flavors. A touch of orange liqueur will give an old friend a citrusy twist, a hint of amaretto will add the merest Italian accent, and a wee dram of Bailey’s Irish liqueur will cause someone to steal the platter, apples and all.

For folks who will miss the crunch of the hardened caramel, might I suggest offering some crushed, sea-salted almonds to sprinkle on the dipped apple slices? (That would be enough to make ­­me steal the entire tray.)

Apologies to my dentist: the beach house will have to wait another year.

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Write to me at the email address below with any questions or thoughts you may have. Thanks!

Let me email you when the blog has been updated! Opt in by clicking the biscotti at right or by sending your email address to michael@butterfloureggs.com

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Halloween (Part Two)

"The autumn leaves, fall by my window..."

"The autumn leaves, drift by the window..."

You want scary? My friends and neighbors the Avatars have invited me to spend Halloween night with them and their adorable twins, Newton and Natick. The invitation came in the form of a favor: would I help with the food and beverage? Turns out they are throwing a Halloween party for the twins’ school mates (including three other sets of twins), their parents, and other assorted adults (of whom I guess I am one.) Boo!

They have dinner taken care of, no more cookies or cakes are needed, and I would not presume to try to one-up Mr. Hershey in the candy department. So what’s left? Adult beverages, of course.

Now, I worry that you’ll think that the Avatars ascribed to me an intimate knowledge of all things alcohol, and have thus asked me to choose a cocktail for the gathering. No, truth be told, I am a rather abstemious guy. The assignment was actually one of responsibility delegated.

Putting on my thinking cap, I pondered my options. What cocktail can I make that will land squarely in that magical intersection where Halloween appropriateness meets palate pleasing refreshment? I’d prefer to avoid drinks that look like blood, body parts, or that use “cutesy” effects like dry ice to reproduce a steaming cauldron effect. I want the cocktail to taste good, quench a thirst borne of an apartment full of screaming sugar-stoked children, and then look holiday appropriate.

As I looked out of my living room window at a big maple tree that had begun to blush with orange foliage I was taken back to another Halloween many, many moons ago.

(If it was that long ago, chances are I still had hair, so I like this story.)

I was bartending in a bustling hotel lobby bar. A blowsy, windswept woman dressed in shoulder-padded assorted animal prints landed on one of my bar stools and said, “Honey, Jeannie needs an Autumn Leaf.” I went with the immediate assumption that she was referring to herself in the third person.

Let me digress quickly to explain that I think all bartenders fall into two categories: those who know their booze from extensive personal experience, and those who know it from extensive study of the “Old Mr. Boston Official Bartender’s Guide.” I fell squarely in the latter group, often with a jarring thud.

So it was that I had to reveal to Jeannie the dirty little secret that I had no idea what an Autumn Leaf was.

Jeannie, clearly a patient, understanding sort, said, “Don’t worry, honey, we’ll use the point system.”

I could feel myself cringe at a suggestion of something called “the point system” as it implied to me a need for some kind of math-on-the-fly. Jeannie, sensing my hesitation, explained that all I needed to do was to get a martini glass ready, and toss some ice into a cocktail shaker. She’d take it from there. I did as I was told as if under some kind of spell.

Once I had complied and had placed glass and shaker in front of her, Jeannie pointed to the ingredients she wanted.

Ah. The Point System. Get it?

And what she pointed to made the drink we have all come to know as a Cosmopolitan but with a dash of orange juice for color. It reminded me of the Cape Codder (or Cape Cawduh as we say up north) which is a Screwdriver with cranberry juice added.

Back to present day (and my current lack of hair. Oh well.) I thought the Autumn Leaf might make a perfect cocktail for the Halloween gathering, but pondered a little update that would lighten its profile: In the intervening years since Jeannie landed on that bar stool, there has been an invention that I think will provide just the change the Autumn Leaf needs. I speak not of the GPS or the cell phone, but of white cranberry juice.

White cranberry juice provides the same slippery coolness as red cranberry juice, but is clear, giving you a blank slate upon which you can paint a cocktail’s palette. If you think that sounds a little highfalutin’ don’t forget that you eat (and drink) with your eyes too. White cranberry juice just lets you make drinks to fit any appealing color-scheme. Want an orange-tinted cocktail for a Halloween party? Bingo!

The dash of fresh orange juice provides a foliage-tinted blush to the White Cranberry juice that actually suits any autumn occasion. Since this is for a party, I’m adding a touch that Jeannie may have found unnecessary: I’m going to sugar the rims of the glasses with orange sanding sugar. The bonus is that the adults can then stick their orange-dyed tongues out at the little ghosts, princesses, and mini-Madoffs scampering around the party.

I always worry that there will never be enough to eat, so I decided to bake a little nosh to accompany the Autumn Leaf—just to tide everyone over ‘till dinner. I’m baking a simple Cheddar Pecan shortbread crisp. They look like cookies, but they have a salty savory crunch that will cut the sugary tang of the cocktails and fill stomachs emptied by wrangling costumed kiddies through chilly city streets to the party.

Now all that’s left for me to do is to figure out a costume. I wonder where I put my Zorro mask?

Click here for my Autumn Leaf and Cheddar Pecan Shortbread Crisp recipes.

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Halloween (Part One)

Don't be scared. It's only a cookie.

Don't be scared. It's only a cookie.

You want scary? You should see me carving a Jack O’Lantern. Don’t worry, this isn’t a gruesome or gory story; no blood has ever been spilled. Sadly, this is simply a story of a boring pumpkin carver. Me.

This is a realization many years in the making. I don’t remember carving Jack O’Lanterns as a kid. But when my Baby Niece (“BN” as I refer to her in this venue) was growing up I was always the designated carver. I haven’t asked her lately what her memories of our pumpkin carving are, but her lack of vocal nostalgia through the years speaks volumes. It’s not that my Jack O’Lanterns were bad or messy, it’s just that they were…tame. Two triangular eyes. A triangular nose. A jagged mouth. Zzzzzzzzzzz.

From the vantage point of time passed, I see a two-fold problem. The first is relatively simple. Tools are everything, and I always feel that the tools I have at hand are inadequate for the “art of the gourd.” Pumpkins are big and have tough skins (I’ve worked for people like that) and kitchen knives always seem too small or frighteningly too big (I’ve worked for people like that too. Hmmm…)

I have seen Martha Stewart go at the poor defenseless vegetables with all manner of electric drills and saws. Where’s the sport in that? Bringing electric power to bear here seems like performing open heart surgery with a jack hammer. (I’m a big fan of Martha’s, but the look of glee on her face as she went at the pumpkin with a hole saw was eye opening for more than just the pumpkin.)

Last year at Williams-Sonoma I saw an electric tool designed specifically for pumpkin carving. Where’s the finesse? Where’s the artistry? Besides, if I used that a friend of mine would have labeled me a “cheater” to the end of my days. (I have a couple of friends who like to throw pumpkin carving parties. Let’s just say it’s a tough room.)

If you sense some hemming and hawing on my part it is likely due to the second part of the two-fold problem. I tend to personify the pumpkins. When I shop for a pumpkin I don’t choose the first pumpkin I see. I look for one that is big, round, and, for lack of a better description, happy. For me, pumpkin shopping is not unlike adopting a big round orange mutt from the pound.

Let me digress for a moment. I have a friend who has a dog. One Christmas season, someone (not me!) had the inspiration to place a set of felt reindeer antlers on the dog. I will never forget the look of shame and disappointment on the dog’s face as he hung his head in shame. If the dog could have spoken, he likely would have said, “Antlers? You’re kidding, right? I thought you were better than this.”

I look at my beautiful, happy pumpkin, and can’t help but feel the same attitude coming from him—I mean–it. So, my instinct is always to enjoy the fat, happy pumpkin as is.

But social obligations being what they are, when invited to a Jack O’Lantern carving party one must arrive with the makings of a Jack O’Lantern. That’s where some butter, flour, and eggs come in handy.

Yes, if there’s a holiday and a party, it’s likely that I can find a cookie to suit the day. In this case a Jack O’Lantern cookie isn’t a cheat, no; it’s a creative swerve into another lane on the highway. All you need is a Jack O’Lantern cookie cutter.

The first time I made Jack O’Lantern cookies, I used a tangy maple-flavored dough, sprinkled them with a dusting of maple sugar, and filled them like a sandwich cookie with chocolate buttercream. 

This year I thought it would be fun to go with tradition and use an orange colored filling. A chocolate cookie would be good, but a little predictable. I was in the mood for something else, so the cookies are mocha-flavored.

I was faced with a few choices for the filling, and decided to present you with an either / or decision. You can use an easy buttercream and tint it orange, but if kids are involved in the occasion, I thought it would be fun to make them into a kind of a Halloween S’Mores cookie. I painted the bottom cookie with melted chocolate, let it set, then topped that with a dab of Italian meringue (Marshmallow Fluff from the jar is a perfectly acceptable substitute) tinted orange. I closed the sandwich with a cookie whose eyes, nose, and mouth were cut out so the orange filling would show.

The trick? I didn’t have to carve a pumpkin. The treat? Cookies, of course.

Click here for my Jack O’Lantern cookie recipe.

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