Monday, October 31, 2016

Elissabat's Kiss from a Vampire Cookies

A ghoulish guest star with some scary cool treats!

Novelty recipes always enchant me. I might not be a huge Pintrest enthusiast, but I can appreciate a good food related craft, or clever tricks to make awesome themed cakes, cookies and tea breads.

My only complaint? Sometimes they don't turn out the way you want them to. Unfortunately, this is one of those times, but we were still left with a really tasty treat that would be welcome at any Halloween party.

Because I left most of what could be considered Halloween costumes for American Girl dolls at my parents' house, I decided this post was going to be hosted by one of my Monster High dolls, who happens to be a vampire. Seems fitting, right?

Unfortunately this is not a historical recipe, although as we discussed in my class tonight, it isn’t exactly out of the question to imagine some Victorian baker getting a little creative and trying to profit from the new vampire craze everyone seems to have gotten caught up in. Long before Twilight, vampires really exploded into American and British popular culture in the late 19th and early 20th century with works like Dracula and Carmilla.

Vampires have a history beyond the Victorians, but our classic image of them as a pale, attractive person with dark clothes comes from these works. Fantasy literature at the Turn of the Century was a way for Victorians to express and explore ideas that defied their strict sense of morality. Vampire literature from this period is actually pretty erotic when you really take a look at it, showing that modern society’s interest in things like 50 Shades of Grey is not a new phenomenon. Victorians just felt like they needed to be a little more coy about how it was discussed. 

I’m actually not a fan of vampires, generally speaking. (Sorry, Elissabat!) They kind of freak me out, and I can’t say I’ve really enjoyed most of the media that’s been produced about them. That being said, Halloween is often a holiday that gets kind of shafted when it comes to classic recipes. Almost every other holiday has traditional recipes and flavors that are deeply connected to it, and with the exception of candy apples, pumpkin flavored stuff and candy, Halloween… kind of doesn’t have that, these days. Instead, people usually get creative when making sweets, pulling classic icons from Halloween lore and interpreting them in cake pops, rice krispie treat creations and pudding. Sometimes these creations are way, way too complicated for a grad student on a budget...

But these seemed simple, unique, and potentially really tasty! They're essentially just two buttery sugar cookies with raspberry jam sandwiched in between. You poke two holes in the top, and the jam is supposed to ooze out like blood from a vampire bite. Easy, right?

I got the recipe from Taste of Home's Holidays & Celebrations Throughout the Year cookbook, which my grandma found at a used book store for a crazy good price as a present for my then upcoming move to DC. It's got really cool ideas for holiday parties and get togethers, not to mention awesome pictures for every recipe. I keep flipping through it wishing I had time, space and opportunity to cook a full course Christmas Party, or the rest of the Halloween themed recipes, too. Garlic and shallot mashed potatoes? Yes, please!

So, vampire cookies. It's a relatively standard sugar cookie dough, with a tiny bit of a twist. You combine 3/4 of a cup of butter and 1/2 of a cup of sugar in a bowl until the mixture's light and fluffy, and then you add in an egg, 1/2 of a teaspoon of vanilla extract, and 1/8th of a teaspoon of almond extract. This doesn't make the cookies almond cookies, but definitely adds an extra layer of flavor that make this different from your average sugar or butter cookie. I liked it, and most of my taste testers seemed to too, but if you're really not a fan of almond, you can probably skip it or add in more vanilla.

Once you add in 1 1/2 cups of flour and 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt, you chill the dough for half an hour to make sure it's sturdy enough to roll out and cut into circles, just like you do with basically every other sugar cookie.

The recipe recommends cutting them with a two inch cookie cutter. You place a teaspoon or so of raspberry jam in the center, and then press another two inch circle of dough over the top. Press down the edges to try and prevent leakage, and then poke two holes in the top with a tooth pick. These bake in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes at 325 degrees, and you should be good to go.

Easy enough, right?

Well, not so much. My jam refused to bubble over the sides like the pictures and recipe promised it would. To be honest, I was expecting these to look like a blood bath instead of having the neat little trails of jam down the side, so to have no leakage at all was totally unexpected. At first I thought my holes might have been too small, but even after making them wider and putting them back in the oven, only one cookie began to have bubbles of jam oozing out, and even then, those refused to spill down the sides.

At least you can see there are supposed to be two holes for fang marks, right?

My next batch didn't come out looking much better...

But at the end of the day, they didn't look unappetizing, smelled nice, and still kind of looked a little spooky once you knew what they were supposed to be, right? I mean, you can definitely tell there are fang marks there, right?

Yeah, taste definitely trumps appearance when it comes to something like this, and these were definitely tasty cookies. The subtle almond flavor was really nice, and the cookie wasn't too sweet, which was nice because most commercial jams are really, really sweet and I definitely wasn't planning on making my own for something like this. Holiday parties kind of need to have something semi homemade about them, right? No one's expecting you to make your own candles for spooky mood lighting.

I brought these with me to class and they seemed to be a big hit, in that I went in with about two dozen cookies and came home with none. One of my classmates did point out that it’s fitting that there’s no “blood” oozing from the cookies is fitting because what self respecting vampire would leave tasty blood left behind? I appreciated this interpretation, even if I'm still a little bummed these didn't turn out the way I wanted them to.

I'm not sure what can be done to improve this recipe, although one of my classmates suggested using fresh raspberries next time considering how liquidy they get when you're baking pies or cobblers. I'd definitely be interested to give this a shot, and wonder if it would make the cookies more tart than sweet, which might be kind of fun. I do really enjoy tart raspberries.

So, overall, kind of a bummer these didn't work out as perfectly as I'd hoped, but it's still fun to have a spooky crowd pleaser for any future Halloween parties I throw. Maybe next year we'll give these another try!

Happy Halloween!


  1. Perhaps not as intended but they look delicious!

    1. It was a good dough and the jam matched the almond extract really well! I'd definitely make them or something similar again.