halloween is one of those days that really feels like a holiday though no one gets the day off. kids come into school in costume, and at work, hairbands with antennae, witch hats, and fake glasses creep into office dress. back in college, my next-door-neighbor senior year would deck out his place with all sorts of cobwebs, skeletons, ghosts, and a giant inflatable pumpkin, which seemed like a lot of work to celebrate just one short evening. (to be fair, I think he just really liked holidays – for thanksgiving, there was a massive inflatable turkey outside, and for christmas, an alarming number of colorful lights and a full-sized sled complete with a terrifyingly lifelike stuffed santa and reindeer.)
I’m still not totally clear on what city kids do for halloween (do they just ride elevators up and down in fancy apartment buildings?), but when I was a kid growing up in the suburbs, halloween was a big deal: we’d get together at a friend’s house and get all dressed up, then just run amok in the neighborhood for two hours, collecting so much candy that we’d end up throwing most of it away by the halloween of next year. it truly felt like a night of mischief, where in the absence of parents, fleeting friendships were made with other random costumed kids as we wandered from house to house and traded candies as night descended.
one year, one of my friend’s moms made some super cute slice-and-bake cookies for us, which had little pumpkin shapes in the center. I found out years later that these were not, in fact, a product of her imagination, but had been purchased from the supermarket, courtesy of pillsbury. here’s my take on them, perhaps not as perfect in appearance as the mass-produced ones of my high school years, but in my opinion, infinitely tastier. I guess I’ll find out this year what city kids do on halloween, and if any stop by this 31st, I’ll be ready with these cookies.
makes ~30 cookies
100g (1 cup) granulated sugar
30g (1/4 cup) confectioner’s sugar
12 tsp fine sea salt
2 egg yolks, room temperature
2 tsp vanilla extract
272g (2 cups) all-purpose flour
red, yellow, and green food dye
dorie greenspan. dorie’s cookies. new york: houghton mifflin harcourt publishing company, 2016.
2 add flour all at once and fold a few times using a rubber spatula, then with mixer on low, mix just until flour disappears into dough. turn dough a few times with spatula to make sure there are no flour streaks remaining.
3 turn dough out onto counter and divide in half, then remove ~20 grams from the ball that will later be used for the orange pumpkin part of the cookie. if the dough is too soft to work with, place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
4 add yellow and red food coloring to smaller dough ball until desired orange color is achieved. (I used food coloring with a 1 red :3 yellow ratio, 8:24 drops total.) for the ~20g ball, add 6-8 drops of green food coloring until desired green color is achieved. if the dough is too soft to work with, place in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
5 divide the plain dough in two. on top of a piece of plastic wrap, roll each plain dough ball into a 6×9-in rectangle. set aside in the refrigerator.
6 divide the orange dough in two, then roll each out into a 9-in long cylinder. press down on top of the cylinder to flatten slightly into an oval. using a chopstick or skewer, make an indentation on top. divide the green dough in two and roll each piece out until they are 9-in long (they should be very skinny). press into the indentation on the orange dough, then gently pinch into a stem shape. place in freezer for at least 45 minutes, until dough is firm.
7 10 minutes before pumpkin-shaped dough comes out of the freezer, remove plain dough sheets from fridge. place pumpkin-shaped dough in the center, then roll up. cut off any excess dough and use it to cover any patches where the orange/green is showing through. press the cylinder together firmly and wrap in plastic wrap, then roll a few times to close dough seams. each dough log should be ~9-in long. freeze dough for at least 3 hours.
8 preheat oven to 350ºF. line a baking sheet with parchment paper. remove dough from freezer and slice into ~1/2-in rounds (I get ~32 cookies out of each log). arrange ~2 inches apart on baking sheet, then bake for 17-20 minutes, until firm to the touch and golden-brown around the edges. transfer to a cooling rack and let cookies rest on baking sheet for 10 more minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool to room temperature. cookies will keep an airtight container at room temperature up to 5 days, and wrapped tightly in the freezer up to 2 months. (unbaked dough can also be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to 2 months.)