When Paula and I were children, there were a lot of Southerners who didn’t go in for all that much trick-or-treating. It wasn’t that we didn’t want to, but in rural farming communities where houses were half a mile or more apart, accomplishing door-to-door treat-trolling could be a bit of a challenge. Well do I remember the freedom after we moved in to town, where we were allowed to roam at will with our trick-or-treat bags.
That didn’t mean Halloween wasn’t a big deal out in the country. There was this big carnival at the school house, complete with orange and black crepe decorations, jack-o-lantern carving contests, and a spooky haunted house rigged up by imaginative parents and teenagers who did disgusting things with ketchup and peeled grapes.
When I was four, I was actually crowned King of that carnival. It has been downhill ever since. Anyway—we got to dress up in costumes and stuff ourselves with mostly homemade Halloween treats—chewy fudge, crisp popcorn balls, caramel coated apples, and, of course, ghoulishly decorated cookies cut into creepy shapes from bats and arch-backed cats to jack-o-lanterns, ghosts, and broom-riding witches.
The tradition for Halloween-decorated cookies goes back a lot further than you might think—there are vintage Halloween-themed cutters dating from at least the early nineteen-hundreds. Now that there’s been a revival of neighborhood Halloween carnivals, grim-shaped cookies are easy themed treats for a crowd of ghouls, whether they are six or sixty.
Cheese Cats, Bats, and Jack-O’-Lanterns
Yields: about 10 dozen depending on the size of your cookie cutters
Traditionally, cheese straws are extruded from a cookie press, but they’re really just a savory shortbread, and can be cut into shapes like any other cookie. These may seem like grown-up Halloween treats, but try to name a child who doesn’t love cheese.
¾ pound (12 ounces) well-aged, extra-sharp cheddar, grated
¼ pound (4 ounces) Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
¼ pound (½ cup or 1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
1 generous teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
½ teaspoon salt
10 ounces (about 2 cups) all-purpose flour
In a food processor fitted with a steel blade or with a stand mixer, cream both cheeses with the butter until fluffy and smooth.
Whisk together the cayenne, salt, and flour in a separate bowl. Add it all to the processor or in batches to the mixer and work into a smooth dough. Gather into a ball, wrap well in plastic wrap, and chill 30 minutes. Don’t let it chill hard. If you make it ahead, soften at room temperature for 30 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 325° F. Roll out the dough on a lightly flour a work surface about 1/8-inch thick and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. If you don’t have a jack-o’-lantern cutter, use a pumpkin cutter and cut out a face with a sharp paring knife dipped in flour.
Bake 16 to 18 minutes, being careful not to let them brown. The bottoms should be golden but the tops and sides should not color. Cool on wire racks. Store in airtight tins.
i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above?
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am
Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am
I WISH I COULD COOK.
COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER?
I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE.
YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE.
19 SPENCER WAY
KINGS PARK, NY 11754
HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am
You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm
Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition.
Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm