I love Halloween will all the glee and exuberance of a young, sugared-up child. It is both a time to be goofy and slip into some other persona. One that is perhaps sexier than you (why so many naughty nurses?), uglier than you, bolder than you or just ballsy-er than you. On Halloween, for a few hours, you can be anything. Halloween’s roots go so much deeper though. Ancient cultures believed that the veil between the worlds of the living and dead was most easily pierced on this night. Some believed we needed to protect ourselves from the viscous and evil and came up with all sorts of ways to disguise themselves and protect their livelihoods. Others believed it was a time to celebrate those loved ones who had crossed over into the world of the dead. They decorated the graves, had parades and made foods the dead would appreciate from their time here and special ones just for this day. I choose the latter as my own ancestry for why this holiday is as meaningful as it is fun.
On the meaningful side I will create an ancestor alter to those beloved travellers in the next world and set out offerings for hungry ghosts who may not have anyone to celebrate their lives. On the fun side, I will dress up (someone much ballsy-ier than me, I think) and pass out candy to those children whose parents haven’t been brainwashed into avoiding the trick-or-treating. I also made cookies. Small offerings to those I am lucky to know.
If you would like to make your own glitteringly spooky creations, here’s what I did.
Shortbread Sugar Cookie Dough:
The best thing about this dough is it doesn’t rise very much at all, so you get a pretty flat surface to work with on the decorating end.
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups fine granulated sugar (I use fine evaporated cane juice)
1 pound (four sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature and soft
a pinch of salt
flavoring of your choice (optional), 1 teaspoon vanilla, zest of 1 lemon (orange or lime works, too), or a mix of spices (cardamom is nice for a mystery note)
Sift flour and sugar together into a large bowl. Work in the butter. I found that kneading it in by hand is really the only effective way to get the job done (take off your rings, though, sugar cookie dough in stone settings is hard to get out). Continue to knead until the dough cracks. This seems weird, to knead cookie dough, but skipping this step will make your cookie too tender to hold up to decorating and transporting. Roll anywhere between 1/3 to 1/2.” Bake on parchment lined cookie sheets at 325° until golden brown around the edges. Undercooking them makes them crumbly and not good for transporting. Decorate with royal icing (the Joy of Cooking one with powdered egg whites is great).
Depending on the size of your cutters this will make anywhere from 3 dozen to 100 cookies.
First gather all your cutters:
Then all the crazily colored pastes and sugars:
Roll out the dough and place on trays to bake:
Let them cool their heels as you can’t slap icing on hot cookies:
Decorate at will: