Food from the Hart

Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Halloween Fun: Turning the Dial Up on Your Classic Spook Fest

In Celebrations on October 9, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Halloween is often brushed aside as a children’s holiday. Though as we get older it gives seems to give us license to be someone or something else for one evening.  As children, black and orange, witches and goblins, chocolate and lollipops are enough. For most adults, free candy is simply not reason to embrace the holiday.

This year take your typical garish and goolish fright-fest and turn it into an elegant and evil soiree.  A couple easy cocktails, festive hors d’oeuvres, and a lot of black fabric is all your need to turn your small space into a something far from friendly.

It Begins with an Invite

The devil is really in the details when throwing a successful party.  The tone and feeling of the event begins the moment guests receive an invitation.  You can always go the route of sending paper invitations, but and are easy, cost-effective and earth-friendly.  Each site has a number of Halloween-themed designs to choose from. Remember, this isn’t a child’s party.  Pick a theme that matches the scene you are trying to set.

Set the Scene

Halloween is all about over-the-top theatrics. Don’t be afraid to really play up the ambience. Here are some easy tips for creating the perfect Hallows Eve look:

  • Use black as your base color and work from there, adding tiny pops of dark orange, white and gold.
  • Purchase inexpensive black fabric from a craft store and use to cover table tops and wrap lamp shades for a dark and dramatic look.
  • Place groupings of black taper candles along with smaller tea candles around the space. Use as a main source of light once the party begins.
  • Create creepy tableaux out of old books, skulls, crystal balls and apothecary bottles filled with water and orange food coloring.
  • Raid the party supply store for black leaf garland and cobwebs to drape over lamps, bookshelves and tables.
  • Check out the local flower market for black tulips, burgundy calla lilies, and black roses. Use together in flower arrangements to place around.
  • Turn on televisions and have old black and white films playing on mute.  Anything Hitchcock would work brilliantly.
  • Create a spooky music mix with the help of one of I-Tunes pre-set playlists or pick your favorite Halloween jam and plug into Pandora.

What to serve

Let your menu take a cue from your setting.  Small bites, cocktails and devilish desserts are all your need to round out the evening. Here are a few menu suggestions:


Spicy Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

Chicken Leg Lollipops

Skeleton Fingers

Roasted Potato Moons


Monster Eyeballs

Brain Cookies

Bowls of Assorted Candy


Dark and Stormy

Blood Orange Martini


Brain Cookies

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:41 pm

Yield: 24 cookies

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse, 2002 as seen on Emeril Live. 

Brain Cookies:

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup very finely chopped walnuts, or pecans

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

About 5 drops red food coloring

About 9 drops blue food coloring

Blood Glaze:

2 cups confectioners’ sugar

35 to 40 drops red food coloring

2 to 4 tablespoons milk, as needed for thinning glaze


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Into a separate bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Alternating with the eggs, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, beating well after the addition of each. Fold in the nuts, vanilla, and red and blue food coloring, being careful not to overmix the dough. (The food coloring will make the dough a grayish color, resembling the color of brains.)

Place the dough in batches in a potato ricer and push the dough out onto the prepared baking sheets in long tubes of dough. With your fingers, loosely pat and arrange the dough strands into clumps resembling brains, pushing to form 2 hemispheres and shaping into a walnut-like shape. Bake until golden brown on the bottom, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

To make the “blood glaze,” in a small bowl, combine the confectioners’ sugar with the food coloring to make a thick glaze, whisking together. Add milk, 1 tablespoon at a time, until the glaze is a good consistency for drizzling. Drizzle the “blood” onto the cookies and serve either warm or at room temperature.

*Photo Courtesy of 

Monster Eyeballs

In Recipes on October 9, 2011 at 4:21 pm
Yield: 48 cookies
Cooking Time: 1 hour

This is a great recipe.  It’s easy and tastes delicious. I wish I thought of this one myself.  Unfortunately, I did not.  The recipe below is courtesy of Sharon Bowers and can be found in her cookbook, Ghoulish Goodies

1 1/2 cups creamy peanut butter
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 (1-pound) package confectioners’ sugar (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (12-ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
2 tablespoons solid vegetable shortening
1 (3-ounce) package miniature M&Ms

Blend the peanut butter with the butter, sugar, and vanilla in a medium bowl. It may be easiest to use your hands.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with wax paper. Roll the peanut butter mixture by teaspoons into small balls and place on the baking sheet. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour to firm up the eyeballs.

Put the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and melt the chocolate in the microwave: Heat on high for 60 seconds, and then stir well. If it’s not quite smooth, heat in two or three 10-second bursts, stirring well after each burst. (Alternatively, you can melt the chocolate, stirring frequently, in a double boiler, over just-simmering water. Avoid overheating, which can cause chocolate to seize up into a stiff mass.)

Take the sheet of balls from the refrigerator; use a fork or a toothpick to dip each one most of the way into the chocolate, leaving a round or oval opening of undipped peanut butter on top. (This opening in the chocolate will be the cornea.) Hold each ball over the chocolate to catch the drips, and then return to the wax paper, cornea side up.

Place an M&M in the center of the peanut butter cornea to make an iris. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving. Store the eyeballs in the refrigerator or freezer and serve chilled.

*Photo courtsey of Kevin Kennefick as seen on

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

In Recipes on May 18, 2011 at 12:19 pm

Yield: 72 cookies

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

This recipe was first published in the March 1994 issue of Gourmet Magazine.  The dough produces the best, crunchy cookies.  There’s no way you’ll only eat one!

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened

1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups (12 ounces) semisweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and oats. In another bowl with an electric mixer cream butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition, and beat in vanilla. Beat in flour mixture and stir in chocolate chips.

Drop dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto buttered baking sheets and bake cookies in batches in middle of oven 12 to 15 minutes, or until golden. Cool cookies on racks.

Cookies keep in airtight containers 5 days.

Chocolate Brownies

In Recipes on May 18, 2011 at 11:43 am

Yield: 16 brownies

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

This is a wonderful brownie recipe! I promise you have never eat something so chocolatey and delicious.  While I wish I could take credit for this culinary masterpiece, I cannot.  I adapted this creation from Nigella Lawson.  Enjoy!

3 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 ounces best-quality bittersweet chocolate

6 eggs

1 3/4 cups superfine sugar

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup semisweet chocolate buttons, chips or morsels

Approximately 2 teaspoons confectioners’ sugar, for garnish

Special equipment: Baking tin (approximately 11 1/4 inches by 9 inches by 2 inches), sides and base lined with baking parchment.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Melt the butter and dark chocolate together in a large heavy based pan over a low heat.

In a bowl or large measuring jug, beat the eggs together with the superfine sugar and vanilla extract.

Allow the chocolate mixture to cool a little, then add the egg and sugar mixture and beat well. Fold in the flour and salt. Then stir in the semisweet chocolate buttons or chips. Beat to combine then scrape and pour the brownie mixture into the prepared tin.

Bake for about 25 minutes. You can see when the brownies are ready because the top dries to a slightly paler brown speckle, while the middle remains dark, dense and gooey. Even with such a big batch you do need to keep checking on it: the difference between gooey brownies and dry ones is only a few minutes. Remember, too, that they will continue to cook as they cool.

To serve, cut into squares while still warm and pile up on a large plate, sprinkling with confectioners’ sugar pushed with a teaspoon through a small sieve.

Chocolate Cupcakes with Coconut Frosting

In Recipes on February 13, 2011 at 12:20 pm

This something I don’t do often, but I suggest you purchase a box of chocolate cake or cupcake mix from the grocery store.  It’s a time saver and at the end of the day a money saver.  Unless you have all the ingredients in your pantry, you can’t beat the price of the store bought mixes.  I would suggest you buy a premium brand like Ghirardelli. Follow the instructions on the box and then follow these instructions to make the delicious coconut frosting that is adopted from Bon Appetit Magazine, April 2009.

Coconut Frosting

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

2 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1/3 cup reduced coconut milk (see above), room temperature

Seeds scraped from 1 split vanilla bean or 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cups chocolate sprinkles (for garnish)


Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar, 1/3 cup reduced coconut milk, seeds from vanilla bean, and salt. Beat on medium-low speed until blended, scraping down sides of bowl. Increase to mediumhigh and beat until light and fluffy.

Using pastry bag fitted with large star tip, pipe frosting onto cooled cupcakes. (Alternatively, top each cupcake with 2 tablespoons frosting. Using small offset spatula, swirl frosting over top of cupcakes, leaving 1/2-inch plain border.) Sprinkle with chocolate sprinkles.

Can be made 1 day ahead. Store in airtight containers; chill. Bring to room temperature before serving.


Black and White Cookies

In Recipes on February 13, 2011 at 11:53 am

Yield: About 8 cookies

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

This is a great recipe that I adapted from Gourmet Magazine.  I think they look great and taste even better!

For Cookies

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

1/3 cup well shaken buttermilk

½ teaspoon vanilla

1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened

½ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg

For icings

1 ½ cups confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

¼ teaspoon vanilla

1 to 2 tablespoons water

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch process cocoa powder


Make cookies:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.  Stir together buttermilk, and vanilla in a cup.

Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, then add egg, beating until combined well.  Mix in flour mixture and buttermilk mixture alternately in batches at low speed (scraping down the sides of the bowl occasionally), beginning and ending with the flour mixture.  Mix until smooth.

Spoon ¼ cups of batter about 2 inches apart onto a buttered large baking sheet.  Bake in middle of oven until tops are puffed and pale golden, and cookies spring back with touched, 15-17 minutes.  Transfer with a metal spatula to a rack and chill, about 5 minutes.

Make icings while cookies chill:

Stir together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla and 1 tablespoon water in a small bowl until smooth.  Transfer half of the icing to another bowl and stir in cocoa, adding more water, ½ teaspoon at a time, to thin to same consistency as white icing.

Ice cookies:

Turn cookies flat sides up, then spread white icing over half of each and chocolate over half.

Orange Cranberry Scones

In Recipes on January 25, 2011 at 1:25 pm

Yield: 16

Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Believe it or not, oranges are winter fruit! This is a great way to use some of the seasons best produce and give your guests a yummy way to quell their sweet tooth.




6 cups all purpose flour

2/3 cup sugar

5 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 tablespoons grated orange peel

3 sticks unsalted butter, cold, cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups dried, unsweetened cranberries

2 cups chilled buttermilk


1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar

1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 to 2 tablespoons water



Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line two sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly grease.

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda in a large mixing bowl.  Stir a few times to make sure it’s well combined.  Mix in the orange peel and combine well. Add the butter and using your fingertips rub until the mixture has a course texture and the butter is the size of peas.  You can also do this with an electric mixer if you have one. Stir in the dried cranberries. Slowly add in buttermilk until the mixture is moist and stir several times with a spatula to combine.

Lightly flour a workspace and turn the dough out onto it.  Gently knead the dough for 8-10 turns and form the dough into a large 1-inch thick disk.  Use a lightly floured knife or bench scraper to cut the dough into 16 even pieces.  Transfer to the prepared baking sheets and cook for 30 minutes until they are golden brown.  Cool for 10 minutes on a wire rack.


Whisk together confectioners sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice.  Add water 1/2 tablespoon at a time unitl the mixture reaches a silky consistency.

To apply the icing to the scones, dip a fork in the mix, allow excess to drip off, and the drizzle in a zig-zap pattern over the scones.

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