Make More Cookies Blog

Halloween CookiesIn addition to being the official day for dressing in crazy costumes, gobbling candy, carving pumpkins, and dancing to “Monster Mash,” Halloween is the unofficial start of holiday cookie decorating season. Now’s the time to get out those ghost, cat, bat, and pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters, find the orange and black food coloring, sprinkles, nonpareils, or sparkling sugar (or better yet, all of the above) and let your creativity flow.

Halloween parties and decorated cookies are a natural pairing. A plate or basket of iced cookies makes a nice centerpiece for a Halloween party snack table. If you like, provide clear cellophane bags and ties so guests can bring a cookie home as a party favor. For kids’ parties, it’s a good idea to include some quieter crafts that children can do side by side along with the more boisterous games that they play together. Make cookies part of the festivities by setting up a cookie decorating corner.

When you want everyone to be able to join in the fun, sometimes that means accommodating food allergies, and two of the most common allergens for kids are eggs and dairy. With that in mind, I created a couple of cookie recipes—one vanilla and one chocolate—that don’t use butter or eggs. These cookies are suitable for vegans as well, and incidentally, the lack of eggs means that the dough is safe to nibble. I replaced the butter with dairy-free margarine, and instead of eggs I used a product called Ener-G Egg Replacer. This is a dry powder that comes in a 1-pound box; you can find it in the baking aisle or in the special diets section of most well-stocked supermarkets. It costs about six dollars, which might seem like a big investment for cookies, but it keeps indefinitely. Better yet, you can use it to make royal icing, which dries hard and is used for decorating Christmas cookies and gluing together gingerbread houses. The standard recipe for royal icing includes raw egg whites; meringue powder is sold as a safer-to-eat substitute, but happily this egg-free powder works just as well.

If you’ve never decorated cookies with royal icing, please give it a try. Royal icing is easy to make and easy to work with, once you get a feel for how thick it needs to be. Piping a border of thick icing and then filling in with thinner icing creates nice clean edges and allows you to neatly decorate a cookie using more than one color. And the resulting cookie is much more durable than one iced with soft frosting—perfect for ornaments.

You can read a good description of royal icing as well as tips for using it here. As for coloring, here are some of my own observations:

Food coloring paste, sold in small jars, gives you a wider range of color shades and intensities than liquid coloring does. It comes in dozens of colors, but to start with, you can stick to the basics and blend your own. If you’re an avid cake and cookie decorator, it’s nice to have orange, green, and purple in addition to red, yellow, and blue—and of course you need black.

A little paste color goes a long way. Dip the tip of a butter knife in the paste and then touch it to the surface of the icing before stirring it in; set the knife aside and retouch to add more color. Keep in mind that as the icing sits, the color will become more intense (for some reason, this seems to happen with yellow in particular).

You can blend colors either by using different pastes in the same icing or by combining two different tinted icings. To tone down the orange for my pumpkins, for example, I added a tiny amount of black icing.

Even if you don’t intend to use white icing on your cookies, don’t color the whole batch of icing; set aside a little plain white in case some of your colors turn out a bit too bright for your liking.

In the weeks to come, I’ll include more cookie decorating tips. In the meantime, I’d love to see your Halloween cookie creations—you can post photos on this site. Happy haunting!

Ann
www.annclark.com

Dairy-Free Vanilla Cookies
Makes about 18
No eggs, no butter makes this a cookie recipe that just about everyone can love—suitable for vegans, people with egg and dairy allergies, those who need to watch their cholesterol, and cookie fans in general.

Stir together:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer
- 2 tablespoons warm water

Cream together until light and fluffy:
- 1 cup dairy free margarine room temperature
- 2/3 cup sugar

Beat in:
- Egg replacer mixture
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together and add:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir just until all ingredients are well blended; do not overmix. Chill dough for 3-4 hours before rolling. Preheat oven to 350º. Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with your favorite Ann Clark Ltd Cookie Cutters, then transfer cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly colored. Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Dairy-Free Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 18
The chocolate makes this dough a bit crumbly. If the dough cracks as you are rolling it, let it rest on the counter until it softens up, about 10 to 15 minutes. It can be hard to tell when chocolate cookies are done; rather than waiting for the edges to turn brown, remove the cookies when the surface looks completely dull and dry.

Melt and let cool:
- 2 1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Stir together:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Ener-G egg replacer
- 2 tablespoons warm water

Cream together until light and fluffy:
- 1 cup dairy free margarine
- 1 cup sugar

Beat in:
- Cooled chocolate
- Egg replacer mixture
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whisk together and add:
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt

Stir just until all ingredients are well blended; do not overmix. Chill dough for 3-4 hours before rolling. Preheat oven to 350º. Roll dough out on a lightly floured counter to 1/4-inch thickness and cut with your favorite Ann Clark Ltd Cookie Cutters, then transfer cookies onto cookie sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or silicone liners. Bake 8 to 10 minutes, until the surface looks dry and cookies seem firm. Let cookies cool slightly on cookie sheets, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Egg-Free Royal Icing
The amount of sugar you add depends on what you are using this icing for. For piping fine lines, as for borders to be filled in with more icing, the consistency should be fairly thick, like frosting. It needs to hold its shape without being so stiff that it’s difficult to squeeze from a pastry bag. For glazing large areas, the icing should be just pourable, so that when spread, the surface flattens out. If you’re using the same icing for both purposes, make the thicker icing first, pipe the borders, then add water a few drops at a time to thin the icing.

- 2 tablespoons Ener-G egg replacer
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon almond extract or clear vanilla extract (optional)
- Food coloring (optional)

Whisk egg replacer powder and cream of tartar together in a medium bowl, then whisk in water. Add 2 cups sugar and stir in until smooth. Add more sugar if necessary to get the proper consistency. Stir in the extract and food coloring if desired.

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I love to bake cookies—it’s relaxing, creative, and the results are delicious! When I couldn’t find the right shapes and a good American-made supplier I decided to start my own company. We make sturdy tin and copper cutters in more than 200 shapes, and the list is always growing. Come and have a look; you’re sure to find the perfect cookie cutter for any occasion.
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