Saturday, October 30, 2010

Witches' Fingers Cookies

When I first saw these on Chloe Coscarelli's blog, I thought: ew.  No way would I want to eat something that looks so much like a real finger.  But then I thought... YES.

So they're sort of like an evil version of ladyfinger cookies, no?

I've been amazed at the amount of creativity hitting the vegan blogs recently.  Besides this recipe on Chloe's blog, the Wing-It Vegan declared the entire month of October Halloweegan and has served up one absolutely ridiculous recipe after another, including mummy dogs and mashed potato ghosts, and a coffin cake.  I can only imagine that November--the Vegan Mo[nth of] Fo[od], sort inspired by National Novel Writing Month--will prove even more chock full of silly creativity.

This recipe worked really well, though I had a few challenges along the way.  First, no matter how many times I do it, I always forget how to blanch almonds.  Here is how: pour boiling water over the raw almonds so that they're covered; let stand 60 seconds, then drain.  The skins should now be looser, and you can squeeze the almonds out of them.  If you don't work fast enough, the almonds dry up again and you have to start over.

The dough for this cookie is a little bit like a pie crust: you cut in the shortening, and there's a lot of it.  There's really no other liquid except for the extracts (I added almond as well as vanilla), and if it seems like the dough isn't going to hold together, you might need to drizzle a tiny bit of warm water as you're mixing.

I'd like to take this moment to share my secret to baking with earth balance--this technique does measuring and softening all at once.  I fill a pyrex measuring cup with warm water up to the 1 c mark, then I add scoops of earth balance until the water is at the level such that [measurement] - [1 c] = [desired amount].  I quickly then drain out the water before the earth balance melts, and ta da!  Measured and softened earth balance, ready to use.

Another thing to note about this recipe is that the cookies expand quite a lot, and this is more important when your cookies have a real-life referent they're supposed to resemble, as they do here.  The cookies that started bigger than a pinky ended up ENORMOUS.  Not that witches can't have large hands, I guess...

So you bake the cookies when they look like the above picture, then when they're done and cooled, you actually take the almonds out, put jam in there, and put the almonds back.  Time-consuming work.  What made this most challenging was that the jam I had was really chunky.  I tried to pipe it using a pastry bag/tip combo, but big cherry chunks kept clogging it up, and when they did come out, then there was too much jam in the "nail bed" (ew) to be able to replace the almond.  SO here's what I did: I blended the jam with a little bit of water, which made it smoother and thinner; then it worked beautifully (but you have to be careful not to let it get too runny).

Fingernail Materials

I thought these cookies would be more about looks than flavor, but they actually taste really great, what with the high butter content and especially the almond extract I added.  I think they taste a lot like the spritz cookies my family used to make for the holidays.  They have a nice melt-in-your-mouth texture, too.

Oh, and I had company again.

Update, 10/29/11: I remade these and realized I'd forgotten to add almond extract to the recipe (highly recommended), and that you need nowhere near as many blanched almonds as 1 1/2 c.  Recipe below has been updated.

Trick or treat I can haz cookies?

Happy Halloween!

Witches' Fingers Cookies
(adapted from Chef Chloe)

2 c flour
1 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer
1 c softened vegan margarine (I use Earth Balance non-hydrogenated Buttery Spread)
1 TB pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/2 c blanched whole almonds
1/4 c cherry (or other red) jam (thinned and blended with water, if necessary)
2 TB maple syrup (optional; to brush the almonds)

1. Preheat oven to 350* and line 3 baking sheets with parchment paper.  To be quite honest, the oven's going to ready a long time before you are, so you might want to wait to preheat until you get to the decorating stage.
2. Whisk together flour, powdered sugar, baking powder, and egg replacer. Cut in the softened margarine and then add extracts.  Mix until a dough-like consistency has formed.
3. Scoop approximately 2-3 teaspoons of dough into your hand and shape it into a slender finger. Note that the cookies will spread so it is important to shape your cookies to the thickness of a pinkie finger. Use a toothpick to carve knuckle creases and place an almond into the fingertip to act as the nail.
4. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are very slightly browned on the edges.
5. Once cookies are completely cooled, remove the almond nail and paint the nail bed and cuticle with jam; then replace the almond. Brush the almond with a drop of maple syrup to give it a creepier look.  Makes about 45 cookies.


Andrea said...

I hardly know what to say. These are seriously creepy — especially the nails. Yikes!

Unknown said...