Halloween has always been a happy holiday for me. Not because I like to dress up (I hate costumes and costume parties) but because I love candy. Obviously, I outgrew trick or treating a hundred years ago. However, that doesn’t mean I can’t partake in my own way. Like I just happen to buy a few too many bags of treats for my anticipated door bell ringers, and they always happen to be my favorites.
Everyone knows that a Milky Way ‘fun size’ is indeed more fun!
As a kid growing up in a large New York apartment building we had it made-starting at the 16th floor and working our way down we didn’t even have to go outside to come home with bursting bags. Ultimately though you get a little too old to be donning a mask, yelling “trick or treat!” and shoving an expectant hollow plastic pumpkin at the mother of kids you babysit for. Not that that ever happened to me when I was 14 and dressed as a hobo.
One thing I never understood was all the urban myth warnings-like the one about the razor blades being hidden in apples. First of all, what kind of sadist would hand out apples instead of candy? And what kind of moron would eat an apple instead of a mini Butterfinger?
I once had a roommate who, upon opening our refrigerator, squealed “ooh, look-an apple!” and happily bit into it. Squealing should be reserved for stumbling upon a chocolate cake or a hot fudge sundae. I knew then we would never be friends.
Now my Halloween fun is channeled through my nieces. The eldest didn’t even understand the pleasures of confections until last year when she was already three and a half. Now it’s all about candy, cookies and ice cream. Luckily, I’ve done my job with her little sister who sits in her stroller at the Duane Reade check-out pointing to the M & M’s and screaming “Candy? Candy!” Who could ever deny her? These easy and versatile sugar cookies are great, thank you Everyday Food. If I were making them for (I mean with) anyone over the age of five I’d add some grated lemon or orange zest or maybe some spices (ginger, clove, cinnamon or a combo) to the dry ingredients.
I think I had more fun during this project than the small fry for whom it was meant to entertain. At one point she asked, “why are we making these?” And I snapped “because it’s fun!” And then she ran out of the room to watch Dora.
I just hope she shares her candy with me.
One note: Regarding the icing-the good news is that there is now natural food coloring available. You can find it at Whole Foods and online.
Baking with the Niece Sugar Cookies adapted from Martha Stewart Everyday Food
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla.
With mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat until combined. Divide dough in half; flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic; freeze until firm, at least 20 minutes, or place in a resealable plastic bag, and freeze up to 3 months (thaw in refrigerator overnight).
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment. Remove one dough disk; let stand 5 to 10 minutes. Roll out 1/8 inch thick between two sheets of floured parchment, dusting dough with flour as needed. Cut shapes with cookie cutters. Using a spatula, transfer to prepared baking sheets. (If dough gets soft, chill 10 minutes.) Reroll scraps; cut shapes. Repeat with remaining dough.
Bake, rotating halfway through, until edges are golden, 10 to 18 minutes (depending on size). Cool completely on wire racks.
To ice cookies, spread with the back of a spoon. Let the icing harden, about 20 minutes. Decorate as desired.
Sift 1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar into a small bowl.
Whisk in 3 to 4 tablespoons milk, water, or lemon juice, 1 tablespoon at a time, until smooth and thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
If too thin, whisk in more sugar; if too thick, add more liquid.
Use food coloring to color as desired (my niece and I spooned a bit of the icing into separate little bowls, tinting each one a different color)