Up Tricks For Treats
Like many kids growing up in New England, I checked the forecast every day of the week leading up to Halloween. Rain or freezing temperatures could ruin trick or treating a major disappointment in the life of an 8 year old. With clear skies confirmed, I would put on my costume shortly after arriving home from school, then count down uggs the hours until darkness descended and I could relieve the neighbors of their candy.
Though it’s been 25 years since I have gone trick or treating, I still anticipate Halloween every October. That’s why I created desserts featuring my favorite Halloween candy good alternatives to the creepy crawly eyeball cupcakes and bloody finger pies that never really appealed to me.
Halloween is the perfect holiday: For a few precious hours, you can be the character you always wanted to be. More importantly, for a few precious days afterward, you can eat as many Twix bars as you can stand, and your mother lets you.
I remember one windy, frigid Halloween night when I was to become my favorite hero: Wonder Woman. I was devastated when my mother announced that I would be wearing my winter coat over my costume. Outwitting her, I wore my costume over my puffy pink coat. As I scampered from door to door, my costume began tearing, and by the end of the night was badly tattered.
I was able to distract myself by going over to Pinewood Drive, the street with the big houses known for giving out full size candy bars. Bam. A king size Snickers hit the bottom of my orange plastic pumpkin. I had to stop and center it, or my pumpkin would’ve lilted for the rest of the night. After that, it didn’t matter how many Dum Dums or Milk Duds I got, or that my favorite costume was shredding I had scored.
The tradition of giving treats to costumed children has roots in pre Christian times, when the Celts had a festival called Samhain (pronounced Sah ween) on Oct. 31, the eve of their new year.
Samhain celebrated the harvest in preparation for the harsh winter. It’s when the Celts believed the spirits of those who had died the previous year could return to the living world. To honor the dead, animals were sacrificed, communal bonfires were lit, and gifts of food and drink were offered.
To prevent evil spirits from entering their homes, people carved scary faces into turnips and placed them in their windows or outside their doors.
To protect themselves from wandering evil spirits, people wore disguises and performed from door to door a practice known as mumming in exchange for food and drink.
As Christianity spread, the pagan Celtic tradition became All Saints Day, a day to commemorate all Christian saints. It was also called All Hallows Day, since “hallowed” meant holy. Over time, All Hallows Eve became Hallow Evening, or Hallow E’en, and finally Halloween.
With the 19th century influx of European immigrants, Halloween was introduced to America. Like the Celtic Samhain festival, Halloween was originally celebrated as a harvest festival. Over time, however, it became a night of ordained mischief and revelry.
Bonfire celebrations turned into parties with games such as bobbing for apples. Carved turnips became jack o lan uggs terns (made from the e uggs asier to carve, large pumpkins readily available in America); mummers became costumed trick or treate uggs rs; and gifts of fruits and nuts became candied apples, popcorn balls and eventually candy.
It wasn’t until after World War II that trick or treating became a well established practice across the country. With the end of sugar rations, families felt free to give costumed children candy corn, Hershey’s Kisses and Tootsie Rolls. By 2005, according to the National Confectioners Association, more than 80 percent of American households gave out candy to costumed children on Halloween.
Chances are, you’ll have some candy in your house this Halloween to try these desserts. I designed them with hectic adult schedules in mind. They’re easy to make; some can be made in advance, and none requires any special baking skills. The only necessary ingredient is affection for Halloween candy.
Each recipe features a classic Halloween candy Heath bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Snickers and Mounds bars. Whether you go out and buy the key ingredients or simply ransack your child’s Halloween bag (come on, you know you do), these desserts will make you feel like a kid again.
These are intensely rich and chocolaty. The best part is they can be made ahead, refrigerated and then popped into paper candy cups before your guests arrive.
Makes 36 truffles
1/2 cup pecans, crushed
12 ounces quality semisweet chocolate, chopped (2 cups)
3/4 cup heavy cream
5 snack size Heath bars, crushed
In a small food processor, grind the pecans into bits. Put in a bowl and set aside.
Place chocolate in a medium metal bowl. In a small heavy bottomed saucepan, bring cream to a simmer (tiny bubbles should appear around the edges). Pour over the chocolate and let stand for 3 minutes. Whisk until the chocolate is smooth and silky. Add the processed pecans and whisk until just incorporated. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 3 hours, or until the truffle mixture is firm.
In the food processor, grind the Heath bars into bits. Put in a bowl and set aside.
Line two large baking sheets with waxed paper. Using a 1 inch melon baller, form a truffle and roll in your hands until round. Place on the lined baking sheet. Chilled truffles are easier to work with, so place the sheet of truffles in the refrigerator for about 15 minutes.
Drop one chilled truffle at a time in the bowl of crushed Heath bits. Roll the truffle in your hands, lightly pressing the Heath bits until they adhere. Place on a freshly lined baking sheet and chill for 1 to 2 hours, or until firm.
Truffles can be made 2 days ahead. To store, layer between pieces of waxed paper to prevent sticking, and place in an airtight container. Serve truffles on a plate or in candy sized paper cups.
Few food pairings are as perfect as chocolate and peanut butter. That’s why Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups transform ordinary brownies into something sublime. Melted Reese’s cups and chunky peanut butter are baked into moist, fudgy brownies topped with a sweet peanut butter frosting and decorated with diced peanut butter cups.