Arts and Entertainment

Spooky Seasonings

Reading Time: 4 minutes

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By Ismath Maksura

Halloween is here once again, and since most festive activities have been canceled due to the pandemic, it’s hard to think of new things to do. There is, however, one constant in these uncertain times: food. Let’s take a look at some Halloween-inspired treats you can make at home this season.

Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

Pumpkin whoopie pies are a favorite of mine. They are two soft pumpkin cookies fixed together with fluffy cream cheese filling, and I would honestly be happy with eating only them for the rest of my life—though I’d likely last about three weeks.

For the filling, you will need:

5 tbsp. butter

4 oz. cream cheese

1 tbsp. maple syrup

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground nutmeg

⅛ tsp. salt

A dash of ground cloves

3-3 ½ cups powdered sugar

For the cookies, you will need:

3 cups of flour

2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. ground ginger

¼ tsp. ground cloves

2 cups of packed brown sugar

2 ¾ cups of canned pumpkin

1 ½ tsp. vanilla extract

For the frosting:

In a small saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted to a light golden brown. Then, cool for 15 minutes.

In a bowl, beat the browned butter and cream cheese with a mixer on medium for about two minutes or until fluffy.

Add maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and ground cloves. Beat on low until combined.

Gradually beat in powdered sugar until the filling meets its desired consistency. Adding more powdered sugar leads to a denser texture.

For the cookies:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.

Stir together the first seven ingredients listed above in a small bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat brown sugar, oil, and melted butter with a mixer at medium speed until combined.

Add eggs, pumpkin, and vanilla extract to the large bowl. Beat for one minute.

Add the mixture from the first bowl to the second bowl, half at a time, beating well after each addition.

With rounded tablespoons, drop the batter 1 ½ inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheet.

Bake for 12-14 minutes or until tops spring back lightly when touched.

Spread about two teaspoons of the filling onto the flat bottoms of half of the cookies. Top with the remaining cookies.

Sift powdered sugar over the whoopie pies.

Keep the cookies uncovered, and chill for 30 minutes before serving.

Edible Mice

For something a little less taxing—and kind of cute—you can make edible mice. Whenever little kids came over for Halloween, my family would be sure to have at least a handful of them available. Made of cherries, almonds, and chocolate chips, these are a nice touch to any celebrations you might want to have this year.

You will need:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 tbsp. shortening

24 maraschino cherries with stems (drained)

24 milk chocolate drops

48 almond slices

Garnish: white and red gel icing

Melt the chocolate chips and shortening in a double boiler over low heat. Stir until smooth. (Warning: hot)

Dip each cherry by the stem into the melted chocolate mixture, and set on wax paper.

Press a chocolate drop onto the opposite side of the cherry from the stem. This will be the head of the mouse.

Add two almond slices to each mouse as ears.

Use white and red gel icing to make little dots for eyes with the red on top of the white as pupils.

Cover the edible mice. Keep them refrigerated.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

This final one is a classic in my household: pumpkin cheesecake. It’s an absolute necessity for my mother every autumn and my father’s favorite dessert. On the first day, we all get a slice, and then my father eats the rest of it. A pumpkin filling on a pecan crust with a bourbon cream topping, this dessert is rather time consuming to make—but absolutely worth it if you can.

For the crust, you will need:

¾ cup of graham cracker crumbs

½ cup of finely chopped pecans

¼ cup of granulated sugar

¼ cup of packed brown sugar

4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled

For the filling, you will need:

Three 8 oz. packages of cream cheese

½ cup of granulated sugar

1 ½ cup of packed brown sugar

3 large eggs

2 tbsp. heavy cream

1 tbsp. bourbon

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. cornstarch

1 ½ tsp. ground cinnamon

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground ginger

½ tsp. grated nutmeg

For the cream topping, you will need:

1 ½ cups of sour cream

3 tbsp. granulated sugar

1 ½ tbsp. bourbon

For the crust:

Mix the graham cracker crumbs, pecans, granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter in a large bowl until blended.

Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Press the crumb mixture into the bottom and ½ inches up the sides of the pan. Refrigerate for one hour or until firm.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

For the filling:

Beat the cream cheese, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in a large bowl on medium high speed.

Beat in eggs, cream, bourbon, and vanilla until the mixture is smooth.

Sift the cornstarch, cinnamon, salt, ginger, and nutmeg into the batter. Beat until mixed, and pour over the chilled crust. Place the pan on a baking sheet.

Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make the cream topping near the end of the baking time by mixing the sour cream, sugar, and bourbon in a medium-sized bowl until blended.

Spread the cream topping over the top of the hot cheesecake once it’s done baking.

Bake the cheesecake for five more minutes. Then, transfer to a rack, and cool.

Cover the cheesecake loosely with foil, and refrigerate overnight before serving. Refrigerate any leftovers.

There are still plenty of ways to celebrate Halloween, even if all the necessary precautions due to the pandemic have thrown most normal holiday traditions out the window. Experimenting with a new recipe is a great way to have fun this season, so wash your hands, put on your apron, and get baking!