Cookie carnage

Trying to cook up a Halloween delight ended with a curse in the kitchen

Trying to cook up a Halloween delight ended with a curse in the kitchen

October 22, 2008|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE

For years Martha Stewart has been telling me that I can make elaborate Halloween fun and scary treats all in a Sunday afternoon.

I'm here to tell you that it's a lie. Well, at least for me.

The truth is, I'm not unfamiliar with the kitchen. Through high school and a few years of college, I was a short-order cook at a deli in Clear Spring. So that means I know how to fry a sunny-side egg, make a real burger and toss a pizza pie crust. And over the years, I've developed my own recipes (I make a mean turkey burger loaf), and know how to make a few edible Christmas cookies.

So it was natural for me to think that decorating cookies wouldn't be that hard of a gig.

First, I was planning on cheating to make the cookies themselves, thinking that if you're hosting a party the last thing you have the time to do is making dough from scratch.


I had these great ideas of making gingerbread cookies into skeletons, make mini pumpkin pie tarts and bake up some peanut butter black cat cookies dipped in chocolate. I figured, how hard can this be?

Let's just say that when conjuring up this All Hallow's Eve idea, the devil might have been whispering the idea in my ear. From the start, this idea was cursed.

Because my kitchen has almost zero counterspace, I enlisted my sister, Spring Foltz, to help me. Really, I just wanted to use her kitchen and her Kitchenaide mixer. After all, it was her idea for the pies. And if it got really bad, we could always get her husband, Paul, to eat the leftovers.

We had been talking for a few weeks about what we were going to do. And after narrowing down a few ideas, we made up our list and headed out to the store.

Betty Crocker now has new cookie mixes that require usually just an egg and a stick of butter. They are easy to use and can be whipped up in a matter of minutes. Any boxed recipe, though, will do. I found one in peanut butter to make the peanut butter cats. I would have to go to another store to find the chocolate wafers to dip the cookies in.

To make the gingerbread men, again, I was going to cheat again and use the boxed recipe. But be sure to use the side recipe that calls for cutout cookies.

We spent hours mixing the cookie batter up, rolling out the dough and cutting out the shapes. Needless to say, as we were trying to get into the Halloween spirit, it was a blazing 80 degrees in the kitchen making the dough sticky and hard to manage. Common sense told us to put in the fridge for a few hours to let it harden, but we wanted to get the project done.

The gingerbread turned out fine. They smelled delicious. The peanut butter cookies weren't bad, either.

But then it came time for decorating, that was another story.

The hardest part turning the gingerbread men into skeletons would be the white icing. I mistakenly picked up a butter cream icing, which although it hardens, can't be decorated the way I wanted it. I found that out the hard way as I later tried to use a magic pen that promised that it could easily be used to decorate. All it did was smear. If you pushed to hard, they broke.

The cats, which I had cut out using a Halloween cookie cutter, were fine, but a combination of the heat and the softness of a peanut butter cookie itself, it didn't stand up too well to the chocolate. I admit it, though, they were tasty. Kinda like a Reese's Cup.

Spring started on the mini pumpkin pies, too. Mini tart tins can be found at most decorating stores or places that sell baking supplies.

For the first night, she picked up a can of pumpkin pie filling. Nearly $20 later for spices, we had the filling. For the crust, we found that's found in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and only had to be rolled out.

Using the pie plate as a template, she cut out the pie crust. Pinched the edges and poured in the filling. About 15 minutes later, they looked like mini pumpkin pies. But they still weren't up to par.

After battling with the gingerbread skeletons, I gave up. They had won the night, but I was determined to win.

The next night, we tried again. Spring had mistakenly left out the pumpkin pie mixture, so I had to buy another can. Guess what? Libby's makes a pumpkin pie filling that has all of those spices already included. Good to know for Thanksgiving.

I decided this night I was going to try royal icing for the decorating. I mean, that's what all those baker's talk about on the Food Network. It would be a lot easier to use than fondant. Or so I thought.

Royal icing is hard icing and I figured it could hold up better than the buttercream. I knew I only had a short time to use it, but I thought that it would do the trick. Frankly, I don't know what I was thinking. What I was really after was the sugar cookie icing, which is creamy vanilla frosting.

I followed the directions, which said if you wanted it harder to use less water. I beat it for 7 minutes as directed, but realized that it was getting to have the consistency of a baseball. It was too hard to icing anything, even after adding more water to it.

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