Day of the Dead

(Día de los Muertos) Cookies

November 2: All Souls Day

Having lived among Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in South Texas, we came to know many as our friends and learned about their holiday traditions and customs. Around Halloween leading up to All Souls Day (Day of the Dead/Día de los Muertos), we have seen several homes, churches and other significant cultural places set up colorful ofrendas (altars) as tributes to loved ones who have passed away. Displayed on these altars are framed photos of the dead, cut paper banners, flowers (marigolds), candles and/or incense, religious symbols and icons, food and other toys/trinkets. Some communities have lively parades with people dressed in skeleton costumes. Some families visit the gravesite of the deceased, decorate it and have a feast there.

At first, outside observers find the festivities excessive and even creepy. But in time we have come to appreciate the Mexican rituals that celebrate the lives of the dearly departed so that they are never forgotten! How nice it is to be remembered in a fond and fun way!

We are grateful that our amigos have taught us a little more about the Day of the Dead and invited us to participate in some of their family activities. Learn more about this Mexican holiday from the Inside Mexico website. And celebrate life (not death) with these chocolate cookies decorated with colorful fondant cutouts!

Recipe

(Adapted from Southern Living Incredible Cookies)

For the chocolate cookies

  • 3 cups flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder or cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ cups butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups powdered sugar, sifted
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla (we used Mexican vainilla)

Directions

In a bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt, ground cinnamon and chili powder or cayenne pepper. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, cream the butter with the powdered sugar. Beat in the eggs. Add the vanilla. Gradually add the flour mixture into the butter mixture.

Mix until a sticky dough is formed. Roll the dough into a large ball, divide in half or thirds, cover and refrigerate until firm (about an hour). Roll out dough ¼-inch thick in between two sheets of waxed paper.

Cut out shapes with a skull-shaped cookie cutter. Place on a lightly greased baking pan. Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to firm up the dough. Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and let stand for five minutes before transferring the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely and become crisp.

For the decorations

  • Powdered sugar
  • White fondant
  • Red fondant
  • Other different colored fondant
  • Colorful edible markers

Directions

On a clean surface dusted with powdered sugar, roll out the white fondant to 1/8 inch thick. Cut out enough skull shapes for all the cookies. Set aside in a covered container so the fondant does not dry out. Lightly brush the chocolate cookie with a little water and position the white skull-shaped fondant over it. Smooth out the edges.

Roll out the red fondant and cut out a tiny heart shape using the mini heart plunger tool. Dab a little water on the red heard and position it upside down in the center of the white skull-shaped fondant. Use different shaped flower cutters on different colored fondant to make the eye layers.

Use the end of a large round tip to make the eyeballs. Attach “eyes and eyeball” layers with a little water. Roll out different colored fondant and cut a small daisy shape. Position part of the daisy shape on top of the skull.

Trim off the three petal parts on top and save this to position on the chin as a decoration, attaching both with a brush of water. Use different color edible markers to draw the facial decorations (we used dots, stitches and swirls). Be as colorful and creative as possible. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Notes

  • We got our skull-shaped cookie cutter at the gift shop in the National Museum of Funeral History in Houston, Texas. As morbid as the experience seemed to be, the exhibits and historical information were presented very well. Everything was fascinating and well worth the trip and visit.
  • Pan de muerto (sweet “bread of the dead”) and sugar skulls are foods related to Día de los Muertos. We hope to feature these recipes in upcoming blog posts.
  • Vanilla sugar cookies may be substituted in this recipe. But because chocolate originated in Mexico and has a nice color contrast to the white fondant, we baked dark chocolate cookies instead. We also used fondant to decorate them because we still have not mastered icing (outlining and flooding) our cookies!
  • Search our blog for more Mexican, Tex-Mex and Halloween recipes.

Frankenpops

Frankenpops

October 31: Halloween

Channel Dr. Frankenstein in his lab and create some not-so-creepy Frankenpops in your kitchen. These green-hued, rice cereal marshmallow monster treats are a festive food for Fright Night. So make some Frankenpops and have a Happy Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (½ stick) butter
  • 1 package (10 ounces) or 5 cups regular marshmallows (or 4 cups miniature marshmallows)
  • 6 cups rice cereal
  • green food coloring
  • dark chocolate or black candy melts
  • small pretzel sticks, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • white tube frosting/icing
  • candy eye balls
  • red candy melts

Directions

In a large pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Tint with green food coloring. Mix in the cereal until combined well.

Frankenpops

Spread the mixture into a greased 13×9-inch pan. Press down evenly using parchment or waxed paper. Allow to cool for easier handling, then cut into 12 rectangles. Push lollipop sticks or straws into one end of the rectangle treats.

Frankenpops

Line a cookie sheet with waxed paper. Dip the other end of the treats in melted dark chocolate/black candy melts. Set on the waxed paper to cool. Insert pretzel pieces into the bottom sides of the treats.

Frankenpops

Use the white frosting/icing from the tube and squeeze out two dots to secure the candy eye balls in place. Melt some red candy melts and put in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe the stitches on the “forehead” of the Frankenpops. Put some melted dark chocolate/black candy melts in a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe zigzags for the mouth. Let all the candy melts set.

Frankenpops

Notes

  • See our theme menu list for more Halloween food ideas.

Bandage Cookies

Bandage Cookies

October 31: Halloween

Gross out your guests with graham cracker bandage cookies. With only three ingredients—graham crackers and white and red frosting—these sweet treats are so quick to make for any last-minute ghoulish get-togethers. For an even more bloody good time, make these bandage cookies to go with our other Halloween recipes, such as ribs, fingers, eyeballs, earwax, brain, bones, apple smiles and more. Happy Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Graham crackers
  • White tube frosting
  • Red gel tube icing

Directions

With a sharp knife, carefully separate the graham crackers into quarters. For each cracker strip, squeeze out a square of white frosting from the tube. Next, add a little “blood” on the center with the red gel tube icing. Serve on a bed of cheesecloth stained in red liquid food coloring.

Bandage Cookies

Notes

  • There are several variations for creating these creepy cookies. Wafer cookies or club crackers may be used instead of the graham crackers. Square-cut fondant pieces or white cheese spread may be used instead of the white frosting center. And strawberry jam or jelly may be used instead of the red gel tube icing.
  • For the bloody bandage background, randomly smudge red liquid food coloring on cheesecloth and let dry.
  • Search our blog for other Halloween recipes.

Edible Earwax

Edible Earwax

October 31: Halloween

For a disgusting dessert on Halloween, serve edible earwax! These simple sweets are made with mini marshmallows on a lollipop stick and dipped with melted peanut butter chips. Try these tasty treats with our gelatin eyeballs and brain, apple smiles, meringue skeleton bones, freaky finger cookies and BBQ ribs for a “body parts” party on a fun-filled Fright Night.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • Mini marshmallows
  • Peanut butter chips (or peanut butter, honey, melted caramel or cheese, yellow-tinted white chocolate, etc.)

Directions

On a short lollipop stick, position and shape a mini marshmallow on each end. Dip in melted peanut butter chips. Let set on a sheet of waxed paper. Arrange on a clean towel with a cotton swab (such as Q-tips brand packaging) sign and simply serve to grossed out guests!

Edible Earwax

Notes

  • Add a little vegetable shortening to the peanut butter chips if needed to thin out to a more liquid consistency.
  • Search our blog for other Halloween recipes.

Halloween Ribs

Halloween Ribs

October 31: Halloween

Before indulging in sweets tonight, eat something savory-scary: Halloween ribs! This main dish is meaty and messy and makes for a disgusting-looking but delicious dinner. If hosting a Halloween party, guests will gross out on this gruesome grub.

Preparation of the ribs is simple but the presentation can be spectacularly spine-chilling! Our version is basic—just pork spareribs smothered in our favorite flavor of BBQ sauce with a fresh red bell pepper, accessorized with a knife, plastic skull and bloody cloth. Add cold cuts to the skull (flaying flesh) and mini-sausages (intestines) for an all-out appalling yet appetizing and bloody good buffet.

Cook a creative yet creepy food—ribs—for a Happy Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients

 Directions

Cut the ribs in half. Season them with salt and pepper. Bake the ribs in a preheated oven at 400 degrees F until cooked. Half an hour before they are done, remove from the oven. Baste one side of the ribs with the sauce. Return to the oven and cook for another 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste the other side of the ribs with the sauce. Return to the oven and finish another 15 minutes.

Halloween Ribs

Arrange the ribs on a platter, placing a rack on opposite sides of each other (or slice between the bones and position them like racks). In between them, put a red bell pepper in the top center. Stick a sharp knife in the red bell pepper. Decorate around the platter with cheesecloth that has been stained with red food coloring. Place the platter on a table and position a plastic skull above the red bell pepper. Serve while the ribs are still hot.

Halloween Ribs

Notes

  • If using one rack of pork ribs, cut in half to make a shorter rib cage. We used St. Louis-style spareribs instead of baby back ribs for this recipe because they were larger and proportionate to the size of the plastic skull.
  • If serving more guests, use two racks of ribs for a longer rib cage. Although presentation is key, the ribs may be pre-cut and arranged on a platter for an easier self-serve buffet.
  • Optional: Below the bell pepper and under the spareribs, scatter some sausages (such as Lit’l Smokies) in BBQ sauce to look like intestines.
  • Optional: Cover a clean plastic skull with cold cuts (like deli-style, thin-sliced ham, roast beef, etc.) to look like decaying skin.
  • A plastic or toy knife may be used in place of the real sharp one for safety issues.

Witch Hat Cone Cookies

Witch Hat Cone Cookies

October 31: Halloween

Islander joined a local cake coven club so she could learn more about and practice witch sugar craft. At its monthly meeting every October, which has a Halloween theme, members bring in desserts to share decorating ideas.

For this particular post, we wanted to “hocus-focus” on a stereotypical witch’s most fashionable accessory—her pointy hat. Islander saw two styles at the Halloween meeting. One version included a candy-filled sugar cone sprayed with black color mist and set on a small, round chocolate cookie base. Another (easier) version featured Hershey’s Kisses on top of the backsides of Keebler Fudge Stripes Cookies.

As a Blair witch project, Islander adapted the idea and used ice cream sugar cones and waffle cookies (same textures with a frillier-brimmed hat). The trick to making this treat is patience in “painting” with chocolate. The result is a festive food and decorative dessert for Halloween!

Recipe

Ingredients 

  • Round waffle cookies (Italian pizzelles)
  • Ice cream sugar cones
  • Semi-sweet chocolate, melted (or Wilton brand black candy melts)
  • Assorted lightweight Halloween-themed sweets (we used gummie worms, but feel free to fill the cones with candy corn, mini M&M’s, seasonal sprinkles or chocolate chips)
  • Yellow, orange, green or purple tube frosting
  • Pumpkin candies

Directions

On large baking sheets lined with waxed paper, place a dozen pizzelles spaced apart.  In a medium bowl, melt the chocolate. Stir until smooth. Dip the open end of the ice cream sugar cone in the melted chocolate. Carefully fill with a little candy.

Witch Hat Cone Cookies

Position a pizzelle to cover the cone and invert it back on the baking sheet. Repeat with all the cones and let the chocolate set as a seal. Using a food safe brush, paint the chocolate on the cone and pizzelle. Cool completely to set.

Witch Hat Cone Cookies

Use the tube frosting with a small decorating tip to make a hatband where the cone and pizzelle are attached. Add a little tube frosting to secure the pumpkin candy in place. Keep the witch hat cone cookies cool until ready to serve.

Witch Hat Cone Cookies

Notes

  • Search our blog for other Halloween recipes.
  • Happy Halloween to all our blog readers!

Vampire Bite Cookies

Vampire Bite Cookies

October 31:
Halloween

Bite into bright, blood-red cookies that look like luscious vampire lips. The sweet sugar cookies have a hint of cinnamon and the fondant fangs contrast the color of the chewy chocolate caramel candy. These cute cookies are a distinctively delectable Dracula-themed dessert. Bake a batch of vampire bite cookies for scary movie nights and for Halloween parties.

Recipe

(Adapted from Bright Ideas)

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • Red food coloring (we used Americolor brand Super Red food color paste)
  • Red sugar crystals (we used Cake Mate brand)
  • Mini chocolate-covered caramel candies (Riessen or Milky Way)
  • White/vanilla fondant (we used a Satin Ice sample)

Directions

Unwrap all the chocolates and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda and cinnamon. In another bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Beat in the egg.

Vampire Bite Cookies

Gradually add the flour mixture and blend until smooth. Tint with red food coloring. Shape the dough into a ball. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Vampire Bite Cookies

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and divide in half. Place the other half of the dough back in the refrigerator while working on the other half. Shape into a flat disc. Place between two sheets of waxed paper. Roll out to ¼ inch thick. Use a lip cookie cutter to cut out shapes (or use a knife to free-form lip shapes). Refrigerate the lip shapes while working on the other half of the dough. Repeat by re-rolling dough scraps, if necessary. Sprinkle red sugar crystals on the lip-shaped cookies. Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake about 7-8 minutes (do not overbake or the cookies will be too hard) in a preheated oven at 375 degrees F.

Vampire Bite Cookies

Remove from the oven and quickly press a mini chocolate caramel candy in the center of the cookie. Place cookies on a wire rack to cool completely.

Vampire Bite Cookies

Roll out a small piece of white/vanilla fondant. Slice tiny triangles into fangs. Use a food-safe brush and use water as an adhesive on one side of the fondant fangs.

Vampire Bite Cookies

Position two fangs on top of the chocolate. Arrange cookies on a platter and serve. Yield: Varies on the size of the lip-shaped cookie cutter (we used a 2-inch cutter, which yields about 2 ½ – 3 dozen cookies).

Vampire Bite Cookies

Notes

  • For another Dracula-theme dessert, make Vampire Bite Cupcakes.
  • The cookies tend to puff up slightly when baking. For a more defined lip shape, outline the edges with red gel or cookie icing.
  • If fondant is not available to make the fangs, simply substitute white icing and pipe sharp teeth shapes over the candy.
  • Thanks to Margarita F. of M5 Cake for letting us borrow the lip cookie cutter for this blog recipe post.