by Jolene Adams, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
Shorter days, cooler weather, leaves falling and farmers harvesting. Classic signs that autumn has arrived, which means that Halloween is not too far off.
For those who don’t know me personally, or haven’t attended one of my Halloween themed classes, you should know this is my favorite holiday! I especially enjoy the creativity involved in costumes and décor. I look forward to investing several days in designing the perfect costume, setting out pumpkins and decorative gourds, stringing up fake cobwebs while knocking down the real ones, hanging bats, spiders, witches and ghosts, and dusting off the candelabras in order to create eerie candle displays all through the house.
Above all the costumes and décor are the treats. I love taking inspiration from the creepy Halloween décor and applying it to the goodies I bake. I can spend hours online scrolling through pictures for ideas. I recently came across a few interesting ideas for apples, cakes and even edible candles. Although it was a little challenging and time consuming, the edible candles can be lit and look perfect served on a candelabra display. Here are a few ideas to get you started creating Halloween themed goodies.
A classic Halloween treat is the traditional caramel apple. This treat can be extremely messy and difficult to eat. A great solution is the inside out caramel apple. It is a more grown-up way to enjoy the classic caramel apple. For this recipe, use store bought caramel candies or make homemade. Be sure to avoid the caramel dip sold in tubs; it is too thin and runny. Start with four green apples. Halve the apples and scoop out the core, seeds and some of the apple pulp. Save the apple pulp to use in another recipe such as apple muffins. Make sure to leave about a half inch of apple inside the skin. Melt a one pound bag of caramels. Use low heat and stir often, as caramel scorches easy. Once caramel is melted, carefully pour into hollowed out apple half and refrigerate to set. After the caramel has solidified, use a sharp knife to slice into wedges and serve. The balance of caramel to apple ratio is perfect, the look is appealing and they are so easy to eat.
Turn chocolate dipped strawberries into ghosts by dipping in white chocolate and adding eyes with a dot of black icing. Try adding the dots of black icing before the chocolate hardens completely, the dots will run slightly, giving the appearance of ghoulish eyes.
Another fun and easy treat to make is witch fingers from chocolate dipped pretzel rods. Although this is a common treat, it can be made to look more realistic with a few simple tips. Dip pretzel rods in green colored candy melts. Before the chocolate is completely set and dry, place a sliced almond on the end to create a fingernail. Sliced almonds can be found at most grocery stores. Add a wart to the witch finger using a miniature chocolate chip. To finish off the look, once the chocolate has set, use a small sharp knife to create the appearance of knuckles. About half way from the end of the pretzel to the fingernail, make three hash marks by cutting a thin, shallow slice into the chocolate. Repeat the three hash marks closer to the almond slice for a set of two realistic looking knuckles. For the appearance of a dry old finger, dust with coco powder. The cocoa will settle in the grooves of the knuckles completing the realistic look.
Try turning a regular cake into a Halloween cake. Start by coloring the cake batter orange. Divide the batter among three round six-inch cake pans and bake according to the cake recipe directions. Once they are cooled, level the cakes by cutting off the rounded tops so the cake can easily be stacked. Color frosting black; either homemade or canned will work. Decorate in the naked cake style by starting with a layer of cake, top with frosting, do not frost the sides, but allow the frosting on top to squish out between the layers and repeat with until all layers of cake have been used. If this a first attempt at making a stacked cake, start with only three layers of cake. The more layers and taller the cake, the more unstable it becomes, and there is a greater chance it will topple over.
Finish off this black and orange striped cake with a spider web look with one of the two following techniques. Pipe a white spider web design using royal icing and a piping bag fitted with a very small round tip. This can be intricate and delicate work and may take practice. An easy alternative is to use melted marshmallows as cobwebs. It is simple and the effect is incredibly real looking. Melt a bag of miniature marshmallows in the microwave for thirty second intervals, stirring between each session. Once melted, let cool slightly. Use a spoon to stir and lift up a small amount of the marshmallow slightly out and above the bowl to form a string then returning back to the bowl. Do this several times and the marshmallows will start to become quite stringy. At this point use the spoon to pull out a string and lay haphazardly across the cake. Continue to pull strands across the cake, in several directions, overlapping to create the web look. Make sure to cover the sides, but not completely so the black and orange layers still show through. Add a few plastic spiders to complete the look.
For a challenge, try edible candles. There are several colors of candy melts to choose from; black, green, orange and purple work well for Halloween.
To make four edible candles you will need
* 4 clear disposable 8 ounce cups with straight sides
* 2 pounds chocolate candy melts (reserve 4 ounces)
* 4 traditional birthday candles
* Parchment paper
* 2 piping bags
Set aside reserved chocolate. Melt remaining chocolate in microwave safe bowl for 30 second intervals, stirring after each session. Microwave until chocolate is completely melted. After chocolate is melted, add in reserved chocolate and stir to melt. This will cool the melted chocolate and help it to properly set up.
Divide the melted chocolate among the four cups. Swirl and tilt the cups to fully coat the bottom and side walls of the cups. Pour excess back into bowl and reserve for later. Refrigerate cups to set.
Meanwhile prepare Vanilla Custard Filling
*2 cups milk
*2 tablespoons cornstarch
*1/3 cup sugar
*2 eggs, lightly beaten
*1 teaspoon vanilla
Place eggs in a medium bowl and beat slightly.
Using a whisk, combine milk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan and heat over medium heat to scalding (the point when tiny bubbles form around edges of pan). Whisk occasionally to prevent cornstarch from clumping on bottom edges of pan.
Remove pan from heat.
Slowly mix a steady stream of scalded milk mixture into eggs, whisking constantly in order to not scramble the eggs. Do not pour all of the milk into the eggs, only about half. This is called tempering the egg mixture.
Slowly pour the tempered eggs back into the milk mixture remaining in the sauce pan. Whisking constantly.
Immediately return pan to medium heat and whisk gently until custard thickens, another two or three minutes. Remove pan from heat and stir in vanilla, cover and place in the refrigerator to cool.
As custard cools, unmold the chocolate cups. Remove gently by grasping the inside of the chocolate shell and pulling out of cup. Do not try to squeeze the cup, chocolate may crack.
Once unmolded, fill with cooled custard by piping in custard. Make sure to leave a ¼ inch space from the top of the shell.
Place one birthday candle, centered down into the custard leaving the top exposed above the shell so it can be lit.
Melt the leftover chocolate in the microwave as before, then pour into a piping bag. Pipe the chocolate, covering the top of the custard to lip of the shell. Do not cover the candle, make sure the wick is exposed. Pipe a few drips down the side of the candle for a realistic touch. Refrigerate to set.
When ready to serve, pipe more melted chocolate on base of candelabra. Center candle and place on melted chocolate to secure to candle holder. Light the candle and enjoy!
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.
Cooking or food questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org