Halloween is fun, and a great excuse to make cookies. I love cooking stuff with a theme, but when I saw the price tag on a bag of four plastic cutters, which very vaguely looked like a witch, a ghost, a cat and an I-don't-know-what-that-is, I just about screamed. Oh, okay, no I didn't - I mean swore. Screaming just sounds more Halloween-ish.
But I did end up buying some mint lollies and licorice straps, and gave some boring round-shaped gingerbread cookies a makeover instead. Here is the recipe and how-to. If you have a favourite gingerbread or shortbread recipe, you could use that instead and just use the decorating face making tips. These go together really quick.
What you need
125g butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
1 egg yolk
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 or 3 teaspoons of ground ginger (or none, if ginger isn't your thing)
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1/2 cup of water (you may not need all of it)
Small white mints for eyeballs (I used Jila mints)
Licorice (I used a 2 pack of 1 meter Fyna Licorice rolls, though only a tiny bit - I have about 1.95 metres left! )
Food writer (I used an Americolor Gourmet Writer) or black writing icing
To make cookies -
Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius. Grease and line two baking sheets with baking paper.
Sift the flour, baking soda and ground ginger into a bowl and set aside.
Using a stand mixer, cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolk, and beat well. Gradually add the sifted dry ingredients and the golden syrup and continue to mix. With the mixer running, gradually add the water a bit at a time, until you reach a cookie-dough-like consistency, as below.
Scoop mixture out of bowl (you should easily be able to able to press it into a big ball) and place on a roughly square sheet of baking paper. Place another square sheet of baking paper on top of the dough, so it's sandwiched between the paper, and using a rolling pin, flatten to a thickness of about 5mm. (I find it easier to roll between two sheets of paper - it saves having to use flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and the bench. Using too much flour will make the cookie dough elasticky and affect the taste. That's my experience, anyway).
Cut 24 rounds of approximately a six centimetre diameter, using a small glass or cup (I actually used the plastic lid from my cooking spray), and pop twelve on each cookie sheet. You may have dough enough dough left over to make more.
Now you need to find something you can use to indent the eye sockets. They have to be a little bit wider than the sweets you have chosen to use as eyeballs. The end of a marker, a piece of dowel, a small plastic bottle cap, etc. (Whatever you use, make sure you wash it and dry it so you are not inadvertently poisoning yourself with germs or something toxic. That's not a good trick, even if it is Halloween.) I had a hunt through my useful box and found a wooden bead which I pressed into the cookies to make the eye sockets.
Then scoop a small amount of the jam (about an eighth of a teaspoon) into each socket to make the eye-goo. If you get a little bit on other parts of the cookie, don't worry. A zombie wouldn't care, so why should you?
Snip small pieces of licorice into strips, and press into the cookies to make mouths.
Pop your zombie heads into the oven for ten minutes, on the middle shelf. That means you'll have to bake them one tray at a time.
Once out of the oven, press the eyeballs on gently. I used these Jila mints for mine. They are white on one side and blue on the other. I pressed the blue side onto the sockets so all the eyeballs are white.
As far as squoosh factor goes, a bit of jammy eye-goo squeezing out from behind the eyeballs is a good thing, but don't press them on so hard that you lose the eyeball altogether through the bottom of the cookie. Leave them to cool on the tray for at least ten minutes so they have time to firm up.
Then using your food writer or black icing, detail the eyeballs with some wonky black pupils. Lift them off the baking sheets with the help of a spatula or egg slice, and place them onto a wire rack to cool completely. Store in an airtight container before using them to gross out visitors or packing them up for the kids at school.
What a bunch of good-looking cookies.
Not all of them were blessed with cranky faces. We managed to make a few smiley ones. Because I'm sure some zombie cookies are happy with their lot in (the after-) life...
...even after having been stuck in the eye with a licorice stick.
These were a bit of trial run for the kids in Cameron's class. He'll take some in his lunch tomorrow. It's another week until Halloween, and I can see myself making another batch next week for Friday, unless I'm told not to. They're not too over the top for nine and ten year olds, are they? You just never know these days. I think they are sort of cute, actually, eye-goo and all. I'm guessing that I'll sleep just fine with these sitting in my pantry tonight. Well, I think I will.
Anyway, just in case, Happy Halloween for next Friday! I'm sorry to say, that if you're local and you were planning to knock on my door for treats, you're all out of luck because I will be working - boooooooo (that's a sad boooo, not a scary one). Have fun!
PS. As the saying goes with regards to zombie cookies - eat them, before they eat you. I'm sure you've heard that one before, but I really wanted to use it. Sorry.