These tasty butter cookies, cut into pumpkins and other more shivery Halloween shapes of your choice, make festive treats for trick-or-treaters. Their charmingly weird look also can be decoration for a Halloween cookie tree.
The cookies are featured in "Holiday Pumpkins" (Ten Speed Press, 2003, $14.95 paperback), a creative and colorful collection of recipes, gifts and decorations, by Georgeanne Brennan and Jennifer Barry. Brennan is an esteemed food and garden writer, who divides her time between Northern California and France; Barry is the designer of the elegant book, which is illustrated with color photography by Penina.
Chapters alternate between recipes and crafts for harvest time, Halloween and Thanksgiving. The recipes range from soups, stews and salads, to grills and savories, to desserts, breads and muffins. The crafts sections, including one specifically for children, cover making a variety of centerpieces, wreaths, trick-or-treat baskets, and a Halloween cookie tree.
So plan to bite into a black bat with little goggling silver-ball eyes, or a white-iced ghostie, or a cute pumpkin-color and pumpkin-shaped cookie -- or whatever the family favorites are. Making them is easy and fun.
1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2/3 cups butter at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons milk, plus more as needed
Food coloring as desired
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift the flour together with the baking powder and salt onto a piece of wax paper. In a medium bowl, cream the butter and granulated sugar together until light and fluffy. Beat in the egg, then add the flour mixture in thirds, each time stirring until the dough is smooth.
On a lightly floured board, roll the dough to a thickness of 1/8 inch. Cut into desired cookie shapes and put them on an ungreased baking sheet. If you are making cookies to hang on a cookie tree, use an ice pick to make a 1/4-inch-diameter hole in each one. Gather up the scraps of dough and roll them out again until all the dough is used.
Bake until just lightly browned on the bottom and pale golden on top, 6 to 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer them to wire racks.
To make the frosting: Put the confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl and stir in milk until a stiff but spreadable paste forms. Though it may seem overly stiff, too much milk will make an unworkable frosting. If more milk is necessary, add only 1/2 teaspoon at a time.
Divide the frosting among separate bowls and color as desired. To make an almost black frosting, use equal amounts of red and green food coloring. Frost either warm or cooled cookies. If the cookies are warm, the frosting will spread more easily.
Makes about 36 cookies.