Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Severed Finger Cookies...

I had such a good time making those funky Chocolate Tarantula cookies last week, and since they went over so well at the office, we decided to keep the Halloween theme going with our Weekly Treat Day by making these wicked Severed Finger Cookies.

Yeah, really - we went there! You will need to set aside some time to make these as there are a couple chilling steps and it takes a minute or two per finger (and you'll be making about 38!) to shape them. The not-too-sweet dough only called for vanilla to pump up the flavoring, but I happen to dig a slight almond-y note in the background with these types of butter cookies - a quarter teaspoon of almond extract was just about right, but feel free to leave it aside if you prefer.

If you can, only work with 5 or 6 pieces of the firm, yet creamy all-butter chilled dough at a time, keeping the rest wrapped up in the icebox. This makes it a snap to work with, keeping the dough from becoming too warm as it sits around while you pass the time forming many finger cookies. It may become a little redundant, but take a seat, turn up some music or have your favorite TV show on and create lots of severed digits!

With all the manhandling of the dough, I do recommend setting the assembled fingers in the freezer for about 20 minutes or so before baking - not only does this allow you to wait to start preheating the oven until you are ready, it will also help them retain most of their shape. Sometimes all-butter doughs tend to spread more than you'd like, especially if they've been at room temperature for awhile. If you give them those extra minutes to firm back up first, they will puff up and out some, which is what you want to help fill out the fingers, but the cookies won't stray far from the intended shape as much as if you were to bake them while soft.

Want to up the stakes on these cookies? Think about brushing some red food coloring on the almond "fingernails" or take red gel icing and pipe it around those sickly blonde nails. I also thought about taking some of the smaller broken almonds and sticking them out of the opposite side of the nails, creating a broken bone-like appearance. Perfect with the blood, no? However, we decided against that for now (Jeff thought that might be taking them too far... hee hee!) and will save the idea for another time!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tarantula Cookies...

I know it may be a couple weeks early, but since we always make those Butterfinger Eyeballs for the Wednesday Treat Day just before Halloween, I thought it might be fun to sneak in an extra themed goodie beforehand. Chocolate spiders anyone?

I couldn't wait to give these cookies a try, but note they are fairly labor intensive, at least in the decorating department. The faintly chocolate (there is only 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder added) cookie dough comes together in a snap and is easily workable without needing to chill the dough first. The original instructions would have you roll the dough into rounds balls, then insert the pretzel legs - however, I found it was a bit tough to fit in eight legs. Shaping the two dozen pieces into rounded rectangles was much easier - think a fat, slightly flattened Tootsie Roll.

Instead of using the thin pretzel sticks as they were (perhaps ours were extra long?), I did snap off about 1/4" worth of each on one side. I did this because they seemed a bit too long sticking out of the dough. I'm glad I did this because the weight of the melted chocolate poured on top may have given them a reason to snap off while decorating if I had kept them that long. When these go into the oven, I found the easiest way to check for doneness was to watch for one or two small cracks to form on the top and if you gave them a gentle press in the center, the cookie would spring back. It can be hard to tell since the dough is stained from that dark cocoa powder.

When you go to drench the completely cooled cookies in melted bittersweet chocolate, what I found that worked for me was to place the cookie on top of a fork, hold it over the bowl of chocolate and use a small ladle (or spoon) to cover the top of the cookie and pretzel legs entirely. While the original directions asked you to line the baked spiders up on a wire rack and pour the chocolate over (faster to do, yes), I think this would have been more messy and then you'd have to deal with the giant amount of excess chocolate that created a flood below. Also, you would have a bunch of sprinkles mixed into all that chocolate left behind!

I found that coating three or four cookies at a time, then going back to give them their "hairy coat" with a blizzard of chocolate sprinkles, gave the chocolate enough time to barely begin to set, leaving the tops sticky enough to hold the sprinkles. The first spider I coated I watched in disappointment as some of the sprinkles (and Red Hot eyes!) drooped off. Depending on the temperature, it may take a few hours for them to completely set - I was able to pick up them without touching wet chocolate in about three hours. I did end up with plenty of pretzel sticks and melted chocolate leftover, all which ended up together (perhaps a few Oreo's went in for a dunk too, but I'll deny that) for a salty/sweet snack over the next few days!