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Thursday, October 25, 2018

October 25: Creepy Treats: Spider Cookies, Pretzel Ghouls, Inchworms, Webs, Gruesome Toes

We are down to the final 7 days of my 31-days of October blogfest! We're also inside a week of All Hallows Eve (cue spooky Bach music)! In honor of that, let’s shift to more Halloween-oriented offerings. I’ll be bringing you some spooky treats and a couple easy crockpot meal options for the big night.

Today I’m kicking things off with five creepy treats: 
1.     peanut butter cookies topped with candy spiders, 
2.     chocolate-covered pretzels dressed up as ghouls, 
3.     malted milk ball inchworms, 
4.     pretzel spider webs, 
5.     gruesome green toes (an annual household classic) 

These are all quite simple to make because we take help from packaged items like candy, pretzel sticks, cookies (pre-made & ready-to-mix), and jazz them up with all kinds of candy (i.e. candy melts, candy eyeballs, actual candy, and sprinkles.)

Today is less about cooking and more about dressing things up! Much like Halloween! 

So let’s BOO this. (haha!)   

The Glue That Holds it All Together – Making Piping Chocolate

First, I’m going to show you how we make and use our “glue” – which is basically just melted chocolate chips in a makeshift piping bag. You’ll see in some of the photos that I used chocolate chips, but I’m going to steer you to use candy melts instead. Candy melts, once hardened, stay hardened. Melted chocolate chips can  get soft when they come back to room temperature. While that didn’t spell disaster for most of my treats, it was an issue for the spider web. The good news is you’ll use the same process to work with candy melts as chocolate chips, and I think you’ll find them a lot more user-friendly. 

You’ll need a bag of milk chocolate (dark would work, too) candy melts and a 1-quart sized freezer bag. Use of an actual freezer bag is important because of the thickness of the plastic. I’ve tried doing this with regular baggies and it has occasionally worked. However, I’ve also had a few disastrous messes wherein the bag split open and chocolate oozed everywhere. So, please, do yourself a favor and use the heavier-grade plastic bag that is a freezer bag. Don’t let my mess have been in vain! 
Start with a freezer bag & cut off the zipper part
Place the baggie into a glass to better hold your filling 
Fill the baggie with your filling (in this case, melted chocolate melts)
This same general method can be used for icing.  
Use a scissor to snip off the tip of the baggie. Start small.
It's always easier to cut off more if it's not large enough,
but you can't put it back on if you make the opening too big.
In this case, you only want a small opening because we're doing detail work. 
Twist the baggie in the middle to seal off the top
(so chocolate doesn't ooze out the top while you work)
and you're ready to pipe!
Peanut Butter Spider Cookies

I found photographic inspiration for the spider cookies lots of places on Pinterest (for instance, here and here.) but I combined different ideas and didn’t bother making a from-scratch cookie. Instead, I used a bag of Betty Crocker cookie mix because I wanted to spend more time decorating and less time baking. I briefly considered ditching the peanut butter cookie as a base in favor of sugar cookies, instead, but after consulting my friend, decided to stick with peanut butter. (Funny side note: my friend was unequivocally ANTI-Whopper as the spider bodies. She kept trying to encourage me to use basically any candy other than Whoppers because she hates them. We went back and forth about it over text for a good 30 minutes. It was hilarious. I stuck with the Whoppers because I had already bought them and because everyone in my house enjoys them. However, if you are similarly anti-malted milk ball, then by all means swap it out for another candy. Milk Duds would likely work, as would mini Reese’s cups, Rolos, half of a truffle or even Ferrero Roche. Just use what you like.) 

Betty Crocker Peanut Butter Cookie mix + ingredients on pouch
5oz box Whoppers 
Wilton eyeball candies (small sized)
Milk Chocolate candy melts 

Here's your supplies. However, as I noted above, instead of using
chocolate chips, I'd suggest using candy melts instead because they
stay firm once they set, while the chocolate chips can be soft at room temp. 
Prepare cookie batter according to package directions.
Use a small OXO scoop to drop just under a rounded tablespoons
onto a Silpat-lined cookie sheet. Bake according to package directions,
however, leave the cookie in the rounded scoops and DO NOT FLATTEN
with the standard PB fork-cross-hatch pattern. 
I made 2 sample cookies to determine if I should flatten my cookies
or leave them mounded. As you can see in the top cookie here,
the pre-flattened cookie cracked when I put on the Whoppers.
The rounded cookie did not crack, and also nestled the candies better.
Allow cookies to cool for 2 minutes on the pan.
Then, gently press 2 Whoppers into each cookie to serve as
the spider body and head. 
Remove to a wire rack to COOL COMPLETELY prior to the next step.
Once cookies are COMPLETELY COOLED, you can pipe on your legs.
Gently squeeze out 8 chocolate "legs" starting at the body and running
down the sides of the cookie. 
To apply eyes: place a small dab of chocolate melt to the back
of each candy eyeball, and carefully place onto one of the Whoppers.
Here's looking at you, kids!
Chocolate-Covered Pretzel Ghouls

I saw a zillion different photos of spooky pretzels on Pinterest, but I didn’t consult any specific “recipe” for them. In fact, I cheated on these and bought Flipz chocolate covered pretzels just so I could cut out a step of coating my own. Sometimes I’d go through that trouble, but not this time. 

Flipz Chocolate Covered Pretzels
Wilton eyeball candies (small or medium sized) 
Milk Chocolate candy melts (alternately, you could use another color melt – green, orange, red, yellow would all look cool) 

Your supplies
On a piece of parchment or waxed paper, arrange the
chocolate-covered pretzels in a single layer.  
Squeeze a small amount of the candy melts into the top
two openings of each pretzel. You want the melt to be about
flush with the top of the pretzel.
While still wet, carefully place candy eyeballs into the center
of the filled wells you just made. 
Allow to set completely before removing from the waxed paper. 
Malted Milk Ball Inchworms

I had extra Whoppers leftover so I put these together myself. Insects count as gross and keep with my theme. I only made a few of these with my leftover Whoppers, but by all means, use a whole box of Whoppers and go to town. 

Wilton eyeball candies (small sized)
Milk Chocolate candy melts

Pipe a small dab of candy melt on a Whopper, then carefully attach another
Whopper to it. Continue applying candy melt dabs and attaching candies
until you reach the desired length. Allow to set before attempting to move it. 
Apply the candy eyeballs as directed in the spider post above.
(Small dab on the back of the candy eyeball,
then gently affix to the front Whopper.) 

Pretzel Spider Webs

As with the inchworms, I only made a few of these with leftover supplies (mainly the melted chocolate) and stuff I had on hand (the pretzel sticks). If I hadn’t already used all my Whoppers, I might have added a “spider” to the web using 1 Whopper and 2 candy eyeballs.

Pretzel sticks (the thin kind) 
Milk chocolate candy melts
(optional “spiders”) Wilton eyeball candies (small), Whoppers
Pipe a large dollop of chocolate onto a piece of waxed paper or parchment.
(My dollops were about quarter-sized, but I'd say go bigger.)  
Use the circle of chocolate as a center-point and add thin
pretzel sticks coming from the center in a starburst pattern.
Once pretzels are placed, pipe chocolate starting from another
dollop in the center and swirling outward in growing circles. Then,
add chocolate strips parallel to the pretzel sticks.
Allow to fully set (in the refrigerator for 10 minutes) before attempting
to remove from the paper backing.
Handle these with care.

I made only 2 of these, and tried two amounts of chocolate.
I like the look of the one with less chocolate,
but the one with more is sturdier. 

Gruesome Green Toes

I’ve been making these for years. I don’t even recall where I first found the idea, but I’m sure I credited it in the past as I’ve featured these on my blog at least two times. Oneand two. (Just read through those old posts and yep. I saw a version of them in Taste of Home magazine in 2010. Thank you, trusty archive.) Over the years, I’ve swapped out the toenail candy several times, but I think I’ve finally hit on one that works both aesthetically and flavor-wise: the peanut butter M&M.

Package of Nutter Butter cookies
Dark green candy melts (I used 18oz, which is 1.5 bags of Make n Mold brand)
Coconut oil or Crisco
Peanut Butter M&Ms 
Melt candy melts according to package directions.
I add 1 teaspoon of either Crisco or coconut oil to my melts
to improve the consistency. 
Turn these 3 things into toes!
Working one at a time, dip a Nutter Butter cookie into the green
candy melt. I use my fingers for this. (I've tried a fork and it overcomplicates things.)
After the cookie is fully coated, remove to a piece of waxed paper or parchment.
The section you were holding will likely need to be smoothed over with the
tip of your finger. There will be enough candy melt on the outside of the cookie
to easily give it a small swirl to cover any missed section.
The good news is these things are meant to be ugly so they're quite forgiving.
While the melt is still wet/hasn't yet set, add an M&M to the top
section to serve as a toe nail. Allow to set completely before removing
from the waxed paper. (It doesn't take long. The first ones will set before
you finish the last ones.)  
If you have remaining candy melt, you can toss thin pretzels into it
and then mound them in small piles on your parchment.
You can call them Swamp Stacks.
They've got a delightful sweet & salty thing happening. 
Bonus Candy Decoration

If you have any leftover melt, you can pipe it onto any candy you have on hand and jazz it up with festive sprinkles. Not complicated at all, but it offers a fun way to dress up plain candy. (As if it needs it…) 

Plain ol' Reese's 
Pipe on some chocolate right on top
(Those pretzels are horrified!) 
Sprinkle on some holiday jimmies/sugar/non-pareils, and
BOOM! This Reese's just won first prize in the costume contest.
Plain old Payday 
Pipe on some chocolate melt 
Top with ghosts quins and black jimmies

There you have it. A smorgasbord of creepy treats for you and your loved ones. Now, get toe work! (hahaha)

**I have no affiliation or relationship with any of the brands mentioned or linked in this post. All opinions and experiences expressed herein are my own.**

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