6 simple Halloween treats to share with your kids
Giggles and squeals of delight erupted last Thursday from a group of 20 children, ages 3 to 12, who were preparing to dig into an afternoon of delicious and spooky Halloween treat making at Ramekins Culinary School in Sonoma.
When Ramekins Culinary Instructor Lisa Lavagetto demonstrated how to make the tiny, chocolate mice - complete with beady eyes, almond-slice ears and licorice-stick tails - one child gasped. “They're so cute!”
Throughout the afternoon, the children moved between six different tables, concentrating on their edible masterpieces with heads bowed and tongues firmly in place. They were fortified with lemonade and the promise of being able to take their treats home afterwards.
Amazingly, most of the candy and icing actually made it into their boxes. Although, if truth be told, there were a few who may have given into temptation, licking the frosting or popping a kernel of candy corn into their mouths a bit early.
Armed with blunt knives and piping tools, they smoothed icing, drizzled gel and made faces from candy corn and other edible decorations.
They also planted almond fingernails, surrounded by gel blood, into pairs of knobby Witch Fingers. In a twist on the Hansel and Gretel fairy tale, the Witch's Fingers ended up being baked in the oven - not the children.
Lavagetto, who has given the Kids-Can-Bake Halloween Treats class a half dozen times, enjoys showing kids how to have fun in the kitchen during the holidays, especially the kid-friendly holiday of Halloween.
“I change it up each time,” she said. “But the Witch's Fingers and the Chocolate Mice are so popular, I can't take them off.”
The parents, some of whom stuck around to enjoy the culinary wizardry, said they were happy that their kids could get a hands-on experience with baking and decorating. And the bonus for this arts and crafts project? They could eat their own handiwork.
Lavagetto and her staff made some of the baked goods ahead of time, so that the students didn't have to wait around for the treats to come out of the oven. That might be a good plan if you have young ones with short attention spans.
Some of the recipes, such as the Witch Hats, only call for ingredients you can buy at the grocery store - fudge stripe cookies and chocolate kisses and decorating gel. That's a no-brainer for the kindergarten set.
Others, like the Cob-Webbed Cupcakes, are more labor-intensive, requiring home-baked cupcakes and homemade frosting. The older kids might be able to handle that task, and younger kids can just decorate the cupcakes.
For parents who want to work a little bit ahead - some of the baked goods need to cool - Lavagetto suggested making the Chocolate Mice bodies, the Cob-Webbed Cupcakes and frosting, the Pumpkin Bars and cream cheese frosting and the Spooky Witch's Fingers dough earlier in the day, so that everything is cool and ready to go.
At just under two hours, the Halloween Treats class kept the children's attention, although by the end of the class, the more fidgety had a hard time waiting for their sweet creations to be boxed up.
But who knows, maybe one of them will dress up as pastry chef this Halloween.
You can find dragées for the mouse eyes at Pool Mart and Lil's Cake Corner in Sonoma or Nancy's Fancy's in Santa Rosa.
Makes 12 mice
4 (1-ounce) squares semisweet chocolate
1/3 cup sour cream
1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs, such as Nabisco
1/3 cup chocolate wafer crumbs, such as Nabisco
24 silver or white dragées decorating candy
1/4 cup sliced almonds
12 (2-inch) pieces long, red vine licorice
Melt the chocolate and combine with sour cream. Stir in 1 cup chocolate wafer crumbs. Cover and refrigerate until firm.
Roll by level tablespoonsful into balls. Mold to a slight point at one end (the nose).
Roll dough in confectioners' sugar (for white mice), and in dragées in appropriate spot for eyes, almond slices for ears, and a licorice string for the tail.
Refrigerate for at least two hours, until firm.
Makes 24 cookies
1 (12-ounce) package white chocolate chips, or as needed
24 peanut-shaped peanut butter sandwich cookies, such as Nutter Butters
48 miniature chocolate chips
Place chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl and heat on low in microwave for 1 minutes; stir. Continue heating on low several more times, 30 seconds at a time, stirring after each time, until white chocolate is warm and smooth.
Use 2 forks to dip cookies into white chocolate; set cookies on sheets of waxed paper. Place two miniature chocolate chips onto one end of each cookie for eyes; set cookies aside until coating has hardened, about 20 minutes.