Thursday, October 31, 2013

Trick or Treat Cookies with Molly

Happy Halloween!

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays, mostly just because I love an excuse to dress up in a costume without people thinking I've totally lost my mind. Despite being busy today, I absolutely didn't want to let it pass me by without doing something for it, and when I stumbled upon the recipe for trick or treat cookies from Not, I knew I had my winner.

This definitely isn't a historical recipe, but it's still a lot of fun if you're looking for a creative way to serve sugar cookies, and can easily be adapted to fit any holiday or celebration's theme!

Halloween has a very long history, but is a fairly recent widespread tradition in America. Admittedly, "fairly recent" means it caught on coast to coast in the early 20th century. Until that point, it was a tradition fairly confined to immigrant neighborhoods, with traditions brought over from places like Scotland and Ireland. Although dressing up in costumes goes back to the Celtic festival Samhain and traveling communities asking for gifts can be found in all sorts of traditional festivals, the first recorded instance of American kids dressing up and going trick or treating was in 1911, and the first store bought costumes were sold in 1930. Until then, costumes were made exclusively at home. Although the modern version of Halloween has traditionally been an American custom, it has spread in popularity to other parts of the world as well, which means while Emily probably wouldn't have celebrated it in 1944 - war or no war - modern kids in England might.

Aside from the fact that celebrating Halloween was a well established custom in America by Molly's time, her stories are also one of the only AG series that actually talks about the holiday. Meet Molly has a very heavy focus on what Halloween was like during the 1940's, and what difficulties kids faced celebrating a largely frivolous holiday with limited materials to make costumes, and with certain treats being rationed and thus harder to come by.

This recipe uses a pretty standard sugar cookie dough, but says it will work fine with any sugar cookie dough you favor! We've sort of been between sugar cookie doughs in my family for a long time - our usual fall back recipe suddenly started producing really terrible cookies with an awful aftertaste, so my mom has been shopping around trying to find a new one. I have to admit, I really liked this one! It's got a nice texture and flavor, and the icing added a nice extra layer to it.

The recipe recommended putting the food dye in now, as it would be easier to incorporate it into the dough before the flour was added. I definitely found this to be the case. It was much easier to mix the food coloring before any flour was added, more difficult once half the flour had been added, and incredibly frustrating once all the flour had been added to the mixing bowl.

I have to admit, I went a little power mad with the food dye. I really wanted orange, and not just creamed carrot colored, but fortunately my mom intervened before the cookies ended up tasting like food dye. What can I say, I like brightly colored things.

Still, for a dye I bought at a chain retailer for like five bucks, it did get a pretty good job of coloring the dough.

After putting the dough in the fridge for four hours (I didn't make it the night before, so we went with the minimum recommended time to chill it, although the recipe did say leaving it overnight would be fine), I took it out and got rolling.

The recipe recommended chilling the shapes before peeling the excess dough back and cutting and rolling it on the parchment paper, but I was in a rush and just thew them on the sheet and baked them. They came out fine, so I think you can be a little hurried and/or sloppy if you don't mind that your cookies won't look exactly perfect.

You may notice that because you're effectively making three cookies to make one giant cookie, you're not really going to make dozens of cookies with this recipe. I ended up with six, with enough extra dough left to share a little bit for a snack with my brother. Because of this, and the fact that the cookies are a little labor intensive, I don't think I'd recommend them for a party unless it's the only thing you're making!

Next comes what sets these cookies apart:

The filling! Now, to be clear, whatever you're putting in the center of the cookies is not being baked at all. This seemed to be a point of some confusion with some of the people I told about the recipe. All you're doing is assembling the pre-baked sugar cookies and putting the filling in the pocket created by the hollowed out cookie.

Any kind of mini candy will do. The original recipe suggested finding something to serve as a "trick" as well as a "treat", so some of her cookies were filled with sugar ants. I couldn't find anything comparable, so we stuck with M&Ms for all of them. M&M's also work well because the inventor of the M&M got the idea during the Spanish Civil War while watching soldiers eat a similar treat. The hard shell helped prevent the chocolate from melting, which made it a great snack to ship and carry while in the military. Mars got a patent for the product in 1941, just in time for the candy to become a popular item in care packages to American soldiers fighting overseas.

Making the frosting is extremely easy, although I goofed and was in too much of a hurry to finish the cookies to check and see what the recipe did to spread the frosting. I used a chopstick to spread it on the edges of the cookies, but you're supposed to actually spoon the frosting into a Ziploc bag, snip the corner off, and carefully pipe it along the edges. This means my cookies were a little messier than they should have been, but they tasted okay, so I guess everything worked out.

Be careful when you're gluing your cookies together so that you're not accidentally putting the wrong sides face up! I laid mine out in the order they were supposed to go in, just to make sure I wasn't accidentally gluing the wrong ones together. The recipe gives detailed instructions on how to make them look nice and presentable.

Let the frosting set for a while, and there you go!

Snap them open, andddd...


Now again, these cookies are pretty big, and they're filled with goodies, so this probably isn't something you should be eating seven of in one sitting. I have to admit, one of the things I like best about these is how flexible they are! They can be adapted to work for literally any setting, and can be customized as much as you want. If I had more time, I might have tried to do a little detailed painting on the top of the cookies with the left over frosting instead of just leaving them plain. And who knows, maybe I'll make a couple more for Christmas or Valentine's Day this year!

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