I loved Halloween when I was a kid - I think I got as excited about trick-or-treating as I did about Christmas.
The best Halloweens were when there was a party at somebody's house before the trick-or-treating started, with lots of ghostly things to eat.
Whether you're hosting a party for Halloween or just want to make something in the spirit of All Hallows Eve, here are three recipes for ghoulish treats that will go over big with the little goblins and witches (although today it's probably more like miniature Lady Gagas and Transformers).
PUMPKIN SPIDERWEB CUPCAKES
2Â¼ cups all-purpose flour, sifted before measuring
1 Tbsp baking powder
Â½ tsp baking soda
Â½ tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Â½ tsp ground ginger
Â¼ tsp ground nutmeg
Â½ cup butter, softened
1 1 ?3 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten until frothy
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
Â¾ cup milk
Â¾ cup golden raisins
Homemade butter icing or one tin canned vanilla frosting tinted orange with red and yellow food colours
1 tube black or brown decorating gel
Sift together the first seven ingredients (flour through nutmeg). Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy; beat in eggs, then blend in pumpkin.
Stir in the dry ingredients alternately with the milk, blending batter until smooth after each addition. Stir in raisins. Spoon batter into 24 paper-lined muffin pan cups, filling about 2 ?3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in centre of cupcake comes out clean.
When cupcakes are cool ice with orange frosting; pipe concentric rings of decorating gel on each cupcake then draw the tip of a pointed knife through the rings from the centre to the edge at even intervals to make the spiderweb. If you want to be really gruesome you can make a spider out of licorice strings and a black gumdrop to put on top.
Not only do these look fabulously creepy, but they taste great too.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tsp almond extract
1 tsp vanilla
2Â¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
Â¼ tsp salt
Whole blanched almonds
1 tube red decorating gel
Beat together butter, sugar, egg, almond extract and vanilla; beat in flour, baking powder and salt. Cover and refrigerate dough for 30 minutes.
Working with Â¼ of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a heaping teaspoonful of dough into a finger shape for each cookie; flatten centre slightly to form knuckle and using a sharp paring knife make very shallow slashes on the knuckle.
Don't make cookies too thin or they'll break. Press an almond firmly into one end for the nail. Bake on lightly greased baking sheets at 325F for about 20 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for three minutes.
Gently lift up almond and squeeze a little red decorating gel onto nail bed; press almond back in place so gel oozes out underneath. Remove cookies from baking sheets and let cool on racks. Repeat process with remaining dough. Makes about 60 cookies.
BUCKET OF BLOOD PUNCH
4 cups apple juice
1 can frozen cranberry punch, prepared as directed
4 cups ginger ale (Chill all of the above well)
New non-allergenic latex glove (ask your hairdresser to give you one) Red food colouring
4-cup round plastic storage container (or large margarine tub)
Fill the rubber glove with water and tie at the wrist with string. Freeze for one to two days, preferably suspended inside a tall container so hand doesn't flatten (tie the string to a dinner knife laid across top of container to suspend glove inside). To make base for hand fill the round plastic container about halfway with cold water; freeze until slushy. Very carefully peel glove from frozen hand and insert wrist of frozen hand into plastic container; freeze until firm.
To make the punch, mix together equal parts of each juice in a punch bowl. Insert the hand so it is standing up and drizzle a little red food colouring over the fingertips and between the fingers. Makes 24 Â½-cup servings.
Last week's recipe for Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding contained an error in the amount of bread crumbs required. Here is the correct recipe.
Caramelized Pear Bread Pudding
2Â½ cups milk
4 large eggs
Â½ cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Â½ tsp freshly grated orange zest
Â½ tsp cinnamon
4 cups cubed, day-old country style white bread, crusts trimmed
Â¼ cup golden raisins, soaked for Â½ hour in 1 Tbsp dark rum
1 tsp + 2 Tbsp butter
2 firm ripe pears
1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan over medium-low heat, heat milk until steaming, four to six minutes. Whisk eggs in a large bowl until blended; gradually whisk in Â¼ cup of sugar, then very slowly whisk in the hot milk, then vanilla, orange zest and cinnamon. Add the bread, raisins and the rum they soaked in to the milk and gently fold together; press down lightly with the back of a large spoon. Cover and set aside at room temperature.
Butter bottom and sides of a round two-quart baking dish with the 1 tsp butter. Peel, halve and core the pears and cut each half lengthwise into four slices. Toss with orange juice in a medium bowl.
Heat a medium skillet over low heat and add remaining two tablespoons butter; swirl pan until butter is just melted. Sprinkle remaining Â¼ cup sugar over butter, swirl pan to mix, then arrange pear slices in the pan in an even layer; increase heat to medium low and without stirring let the pears begin to brown and the sauce to slowly caramelize, adjusting heat as necessary to prevent burning, about 10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and carefully turn each pear slice with a fork; return to heat and cook until sauce is uniformly golden, two to four minutes more. Transfer pears one at a time to prepared baking dish, arranging in a circle and slightly overlapping them if necessary. Scrape any remaining syrup in pan over pears. Set baking dish a shallow roasting pan; spoon bread and custard mixture into the dish. Press down on the bread until it is submerged. Place pan in the oven and add hot water to the outer pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the baking dish. Bake until pudding is browned on top and just set in the middle, 60 to 75 minutes (don't overbake or it will be dry). Remove baking dish from water-filled pan and cool on a rack for at least 45 minutes. To serve, run a knife around the edge of the pudding; place a serving plate on top of baking dish and invert pudding onto the plate. Serve with softly whipped cream with a bit of icing sugar and vanilla stirred in.