In the land of childhood, Halloween is the most magical night.
The anticipation builds for weeks. Pumpkin patch visits. Parties at school, thinly veiled as politically correct harvest hoedowns though nobody is fooled. Fake tombstones marking the untimely loss of Ima Goner and Hugh R. Next pop up in the nicest yards.
The trappings are fun, but it's the candy that holds the most sway. A costume and some walking in exchange for a pillowcase of sugary goodness? A deal, for sure
On Halloween night, there's that time just before twilight when Cinderella and Superman beg to get going. Mom is demanding one more bite of real food and saying it's not quite dark enough to start out. Daylight trick-or-treating is sort of like opening Christmas presents at noon on Dec. 24.
Wait until the shadows go long, maybe a bit spooky, and then hope, hope, hope it's true that the rich lady on the corner is giving out full-size candy bars. Hey, Dad, let's go there first just in case she runs out. How many could she actually have?
There's plenty of effort put into the costumes, but oh how we love the booty.
Free candy? More, sir.
Kids don't care that big people spend more than $2 billion a year on Halloween candy, which translates to about 600 million pounds of sweets like M&M's, Kit Kats and Blow Pops, according to the National Confectioners Association. Kids don't care that all that sugar can be lousy for teeth and waistline, or that the caffeine in the chocolate will prevent sleep. In fact, that sounds sort of fun. Plus, it keeps them going through the sorting process. Chocolate here; fruity things there; stuff that will still be around on New Year's Day pushed to the back.
What they do care about is Mom saying she's running low and that she might have to dip into their stash if the doorbell keeps ringing. What? A protective hand circles the chocolate. Not these. No.
Take the lollipops. And the gum. Smarties if you have to.
Mitts off the peanut butter cups, Snickers and Milky Way, or what's left of them. Yeah, there are a lot of empty wrappers in the bottom of the trick-or-treat bag. So what?
That's the scene from the kids' side of things. Perspective changes as we get older.
• • •
Americans love candy, and they love the stories attached to it.
I remember the ribbon candy that my grandmother used to store in pretty glass jars on the top of a kitchen hutch. Little kids got a special treat from the jar if they were good. (My husband has some warm-and-fuzzies about saltwater taffy — chocolate only — at the Jersey shore.)
I remember those candy necklaces purchased from the snack shack at the ball field and the awful sticky pastel stains they left on my shirt. Who invented a candy that you suck on and then wear? Sort of hard to fib about eating candy with that telltale ring.
And I remember the time my wolverine said he didn't get the point of Halloween. Can't we just go get candy at the store?
Could this really be my flesh and blood? Didn't he understand how much fun he was going to have?
He did question the lousy candy choices in the orange-and-black bowl that came down from the top shelf once a year. Whoppers and SweeTarts? I might as well have been giving out wax lips. Or worse, small dispensers of dental floss.
What he didn't know was that I bought candy that I didn't like so I wouldn't eat it all before the witching hour. That's what I mean about changing perspective.
But you see, he never had the mother who eyed his bounty to bolster her offerings. (I always buy plenty.) He didn't have a sibling who tricked him into trading his chocolate for gum drops and two nights of dishwashing duties.
And he didn't get to go by himself until he was almost too old to go at all.
• • •
Thursday night, just about 6 p.m., I'll make sure my candy bowl is full. Sunset will be an hour away but I know the princesses and superheroes on my street could come at any time. Just like I did, they want to get going.
It's a magical time, and even though I am not dressed as a fairy, I am happy to sprinkle a little dust on them in the form of candy. This year, plenty of chocolate.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.
For the cupcakes:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
3 large eggs, at room temperature
¾ cup granulated sugar
½ cup packed light brown sugar
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¾ cup whole milk
2 cups chopped salted roasted peanuts, plus more for garnish
For the nougat frosting:
4 cups marshmallow creme (about two 7.5-ounce jars)
⅔ cup peanut butter
For the chocolate frosting:
1 (12-ounce) bag semisweet chocolate chips
2 ½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup whole milk
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
½ teaspoon salt
5 to 6 mini Snickers bars, chopped
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line 24 muffin papers into 2 muffin pans.
In medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt.
In another bowl, beat the eggs and both sugars with a mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the melted butter and vanilla. With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture, the milk and then the remaining flour. Fold in the peanuts but don't overmix.
Using an ice cream scoop, fill each muffin tin about halfway. Bake until a toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean, about 17 to 20 minutes.
Let cool in the pans 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely.
Make the nougat frosting: Beat the marshmallow creme and peanut butter with a mixer until smooth; set aside.
Make the chocolate frosting: Put chocolate chips in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on 50 percent power until soft, about 1 minute. Stir, then continue to microwave until melted, 1 to 2 more minutes.
Add the powdered sugar, milk, butter, vanilla and salt and beat with a mixer until smooth and creamy.
Spread nougat frosting over each cupcake, then top with chocolate frosting, leaving some of the nougat exposed. Garnish with chopped Snickers.
Makes 24 cupcakes.
Source: Food Network Magazine and chasingsomebluesky.blogspot.com
1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
¾ cup chopped pecans
30 Rolos, frozen at least 2 hours
Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, beat butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed or with spoon until light and fluffy. Mix in flour, baking soda and salt. Mix in chocolate chips and pecans.
Measure dough using a medium cookie scoop (about 1 1/2 tablespoons). Roll into a ball and then flatten in the palm of your hands.
Place a frozen Rolo in the center of each, then form dough back into a ball around the Rolo. Freeze Rolo-stuffed dough balls for 15 to 20 minutes before baking.
On cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, place dough balls 2 inches apart. Bake 11 to 13 minutes or until light brown (centers will be soft). Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to cooling rack.
Makes 30 cookies.
No-Bake Peanut Butter Cup Cream Pie
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ¾ cups powdered sugar, divided
24 whole chocolate sandwich cookies
40 mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups (wrappers removed, divided)
¼ cup unsalted butter, melted
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 (16.3-ounce) jar chunky peanut butter, (approximately 1 ¾ cups)
2 ounces milk chocolate, broken into pieces
¼ cup dry roasted peanuts, chopped
In a tall bowl, whip heavy cream with an electric mixer until you can start to see a defined trail through the cream. Add vanilla and slowly add ¾ cup powdered sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form. Refrigerate while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
In a food processor, combine cookies and 20 mini peanut butter cups. Pulse until your mixture is crumbs. Slowly pour butter in through the feed tube. Pulse until combined and crumbs are moistened.
Pour crumbs into a 9-inch pie plate and press mixture on the bottom and around the sides to form pie crust. Freeze while you prepare the filling.
To prepare the filling: Combine cream cheese and 1 cup powdered sugar in a large mixing bowl. Beat with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add peanut butter. Beat until well combined. Fold in ½ of the whipped cream, mixing until it is completely incorporated. Pour into chilled pie crust. Smooth with a spatula. Pour remaining whipped cream over the top. Refrigerate while you prepare toppings.
Place the milk chocolate in a microwave-safe mixing bowl. Heat for 30 seconds at a time, stirring each time, until chocolate is melted. Set aside.
Quarter the remaining 20 mini peanut butter cups and layer over pie. Sprinkle chopped peanuts over candy. Use a spoon to drizzle chocolate over pie (or transfer chocolate to a plastic sandwich bag and cut a very small hole in the corner, then drizzle over pie).
Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving.
Source: Parade magazine
Halloween Candy Blondies
1 ½ cups unbleached
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
16 mini peanut butter cups, unwrapped
1 cup M&M's
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, making sure that the foil is tucked into all the corners and at least 1 inch overhangs the top of the pan on all sides.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small mixing bowl.
Melt butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Remove it from heat. With a wooden spoon, stir in the brown sugar until it dissolves. Quickly whisk in the egg, yolk and vanilla. Stir in flour mixture until just incorporated.
Set aside 1 cup batter and spread the rest into the prepared baking dish. Arrange peanut butter cups on top of the batter in the pan, with about ½ inch between each candy. Smooth the reserved 1 cup of batter over peanut butter cups. Sprinkle with M&M's.
Bake brownies until they are just set in the center, 30 to 35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
Grasping overhanging foil on either side of the pan, lift out the brownies and place them on a cutting board. Cut into 16 pieces. These blondies will keep at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
Makes 16 blondies.