Old-Fashioned Treats for Trickstersby Lori Grossman
When I was a kid, the countdown started months in advance. I couldn't wait for all the fun of getting together with friends, dressing up, and savoring all the sweet treats. We're not talking Christmas here; my favorite holiday was Halloween!
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My favorite treat was candy corn, but candy bars were the most prized. Back then, people gave out some homemade treats, too, like popcorn balls or cookies. We weren't driven around either – we walked! And if we were lucky enough to have the holiday fall on a Friday or Saturday night, we stayed out for hours.
One girl I knew had a birthday close to October 31, so she had a Halloween-themed party. Her mom made the most delicious devil's food cake for her. I've included a similar recipe here. My elementary school held a Fall Carnival, where I discovered caramel apples and pumpkin bar cookies. The recipe for Pumpkin Spice Bars would be great for a Halloween party, or any time.
That first bite will bring back memories of Halloween and school carnivals.
To make simple syrup, place 1/2 cup of the granulated sugar in a small, heavy saucepan and melt it over medium-high heat. Pour in the boiling water and boil until you have a smooth syrup (about 2 minutes). Keep warm.
Make the second syrup. In a medium-size, heavy saucepan, blend the remaining 1/2 cup of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, heavy cream, and butter over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and keep boiling until the syrup reaches 236°F on a candy thermometer (approximately 7 minutes).
Pour the warm caramel into the sugar-and-water mixture and cook to 250°F on a candy thermometer, or to the soft-ball stage (when a drop of hot syrup makes a soft ball when dropped into a glass of water). Remove from heat and let cool to lukewarm.
Insert a stick from the bottom up to the center of each apple and push about 2 inches into the apple core. Twirl the apples, stem-end facing down, in the lukewarm caramel until well coated. Dip each coated apple in ice water to harden. Press some chopped peanuts into each apple and place the apples, stick-side up, on the prepared baking sheet to finish hardening and drying. This takes about 1 hour. The apples will keep at room temperature for about 1 week. Makes 6 apples.
Pumpkin Spice Bars
These are delicious and a healthy alternative to candy overload.
Sift together the sugar, flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt into a large mixing bowl. Add the oil and beat with an electric mixer until the dry ingredients are moistened. Add the pumpkin purée and beat until smooth. Add the eggs and beat for 1 minute. Fold in the nuts or raisins, if desired.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth with a spatula so that the bars will be level when baked. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (about 30 minutes). Allow bars to cool in the pan. Makes 16 bars.
Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)
Devil's Food Cake with Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Devil's food cake and Halloween – the perfect pairing!
Put the butter in a medium-size mixing bowl. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, and sugar over the butter. Add the milk and beat with an electric mixer until the batter is smooth. Beat in the melted chocolate, vanilla, and eggs and continue beating until smooth. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared cake pans.
Bake the layers until they have shrunk from the sides of the pans and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean (about 25 minutes). Invert the cakes onto wire racks, then immediately turn right-side up. Let cool completely before frosting. Makes 8 servings.
Creamy Chocolate Frosting
Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Continue whisking until it melts and the frosting is smooth and creamy. Let cool, then frost the cake.
Halloween comes only once a year, so forget your diet for one night and enjoy yourself!
Don’t let the kids have all the fun. Throw a costume party, play Halloween music (like "Monster Mash," "Spooky" or the Michael Jackson hit "Thriller" – complete with a guest appearance by horror movie star Vincent Price), dance, and eat lots of sweet treats. Happy Halloween!
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