Even distinguished culinary professionals can show a spirit of fun when they turn their minds to tricky Halloween treats.
Some of their ideas:
"'Deep fried ants' will have your guests running scared. Simply deep-fry shredded coconut and serve to guests to munch on," suggests Fritz Sonnenschmidt, national chairman of the American Academy of Chefs.
From Cory Schreiber, chef-owner of Wildwood Restaurant and Bar, Portland, Ore., comes this reckless recipe: "For a devilishly hot popcorn treat, blend popcorn with red caramel, spicy Cajun seasoning, Tabasco, salt, dried orange peel, red and black licorice bits and top off with butter."
"Chocolate witch hats make fun decorations for kids to decorate on cupcakes," says Robert Yamarone, award-winning food stylist, chef, food consultant and instructor. "Melt a few squares of semisweet chocolate, dip 'Bugle' corn chips and let dry on the base of a chocolate wafer."
Susan Goss, chef and co-owner of West Town Tavern, Chicago, is not short of ideas.
"For an edible tombstone centerpiece to die for, grind chocolate wafer cookies in the food processor until crumbs form," she suggests. Mound the crumbs on a tray. On the ends of rectangular shortbread cookies, spread marshmallow fluff and press through the cookie 'dirt' to attach to the tray. Complete the creepy graveyard look by scattering gummy worms and spiders.
"Adults can join in spooky cake decorating, too," she adds. "Cut out paper stencils of spider webs and sift powdered sugar for a lacy web design on top of cakes."
Memories of earlier years prompt suggestions from Abigail Johnson Dodge, cookbook author, culinary instructor and pastry chef.
"When my kids were younger," she says, "I would have a little party a day or two before Halloween, so the kids could wear their costumes several times. I would bake a batch of large vanilla sugar cookies shaped in the forms of pumpkins and spiders."
Then she would cover the table with a plastic cloth and spread out a bunch of edible treats, colored frostings and spatulas for the kids to decorate the cookies with.
"Afterward, we would have a little Halloween parade and off they would go."
Bread dough, seemingly wholesome, can be shaped and twisted to rather ghoulish ends, as in the following recipes the children may be recruited to help.
Smilin' Jack Sandwitch
2 or 3 ready-made frozen bread-dough rolls
1 beaten egg
Thaw rolls and press together to form a flat oval "pumpkin" shape. With a knife, cut a shallow, wide V shape in the side of the oval. Rotate the V about a quarter-turn and tuck the point under the "pumpkin" to form the stem.
Place on a cookie sheet coated with nonstick cooking spray. Cut out 3 large triangles for eyes and a nose, and a large crescent shape for a mouth. Leave some teeth in, if desired. Cut 3 curved lines from top to bottom, almost but not all the way through the dough. Brush with egg and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool on rack, then slice horizontally. Fill with barbecue beef and cheese, or your own favorite sandwich makings.
Makes 1 large or 2 smaller servings.
6 ready-made frozen bread-dough rolls
4 frankfurter sausages
1 beaten egg
4 short strips thin red shoelace-licorice rope
Tomato ketchup and yellow mustard, as desired
Let the dough thaw. Shape rolls into long, slithery snake-shapes, and wind in spirals around the franks. Press in a couple of raisins to make eyes in snakes' heads; make a slit for the mouths and put a fold of foil inside each mouth to keep it open; make scores across the snakes' tails to simulate rattles.
Brush with egg and allow to rise for 30 minutes. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes or until golden brown. Cut ends of licorice rope to make forked tongues and insert in snakes' mouths. Serve with ketchup and mustard. Makes 4 servings.
Jackson Pollock Candied Apples
6 Granny Smith apples
3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 ounces premium white baking chocolate, coarsely chopped
Wash and dry apples; remove stems. Insert a wooden stick into the stem end of each apple.
Place bittersweet chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at high 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 20 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold apple over bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle apple with about 2 teaspoons bittersweet chocolate. Place apple, stick side up, on baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat procedure with remaining apples.
Place white chocolate in a glass bowl; microwave at high 1 minute or until melted, stirring every 15 seconds until smooth. Working with 1 apple at a time, hold apple over bowl. Using a spoon, drizzle apple with about 1 1/2 teaspoons white chocolate. Place apple, stick side up, on baking sheet covered with wax paper. Repeat procedure with remaining apples. Chill apples until ready to serve.
Makes 6 servings.