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Entries in halloween (25)

Friday
Oct292010

Baker's Dozen: A Batch of Sweet Links

Boo! It's Halloween weekend, and therefore, I've put together a collection of mostly ghostly links for you to enjoy before you put on your costume and gorge yourself silly with candy:

Sweet skulls: Whimzkulls is a company dedicated to making cookies decorated like skulls!

DailyCandy offers up a very cute gift guide for baking enthusiasts.

The Best Chocolate Rugelach in Midtown (an exclusive from Blondie & Brownie)

Any establishment that offers a "Couture Cookies and Granola" menu is just fine by me!

Bakery lust: a London-based customer tipped me off to the beauty that is Fleet River Bakery.

What does Jell-O dress up as for Halloween? Halloween Jigglers, duh!

Because "Fun Size" is a lie: Ideas for how to put the "fun" back in "fun size".

Peanut Butter Cookie Pops: Scary-cute fun!

Things I want to eat: Choc-O-Lantern Fudge Pop-Tarts, a special edition for Halloween!

Scary delicious: Halloween treats by Jacques Torres.

Pie in the sky: Keep this one in mind for your Halloween candy leftovers.

Sweet Memories: Candy Corn Nanaimo Bars!

More Sweet Memories: Messing with leftover Halloween Candy!

Wednesday
Oct272010

Trick Or Sweet: A Look at the History of the Custom of Trick or Treating

Trick or treating. The very phrase evokes a shiver of sweet, sugary anticipation, because basically, it usually culminates in the consumption of candy.

But where on earth did this sweet tradition come from? Let's learn a bit about the history of Halloween and how it ultimately equaled candy corn overdose, shall we?

First: What is Halloween? Per the Encyclopedia,

The word comes from medieval England's All Hallows' eve (Old Eng. hallow = "saint" ). However, many of these customs predate Christianity, going back to Celtic practices associated with Nov. 1, which was Samhain , the beginning of winter and the Celtic new year. Witches and other evil spirits were believed to roam the earth on this evening, playing tricks on human beings to mark the season of diminishing sunlight. Bonfires were lit, offerings were made of dainty foods and sweets, and people would disguise themselves as one of the roaming spirits, to avoid demonic persecution.

Per this site, it is the Celts who are credited with bringing Halloween stateside:

Halloween was brought to America in the 1840's by Irish immigrant fleeing their country's potato famine. New England added pranks like tipping over outhouses and unhinging gates to the practive of dressing up.

But what of Trick or Treating itself? From the same source cited above,

"Trick-or-treating" came from a 9th century European custom called "souling." On November 2, All Souls Day, Christians would walk from village to village begging for "soul cakes" made from bread and currants. People would offer paryers for the deceased believing it would speed up a soul's passage to heaven. The more cakes given out, the more prayers offered.

Of course, it wasn't really til the 20th century that Trick or Treating really began in earnest. Now, I'm just spitballing here, but it seems rather timely that this coincides with a large increase with commercial production of candy. Per an article I discovered on What's Cooking America,

"Sometime in the middle of the 1930s, enterprising householders, fed up with soaped windows and worse, began experimenting with a home-based variation on the old protection racket practiced between shopkeepers and Thanksgiving ragamuffins. Doris Hudson Moss, writing for American Home in 1939, told of her success, begun several years earlier, of hosting a Halloween open house for neighborhood children...The American Home article is significant because it is apparently the first time the expression "trick or treat" is used in a mass-circulation periodical in the United States...It is probably that trick-or-treating had its immediate origins in thy myriad of organized celebrations mounted by schools and civic groups across the country specifically to curb vandalism...It is the postwar years that are generally regarded as the glorious heyday of trick-or-treating. Like the consumer economy, Halloween itself grew by leaps and bounds. Major candy companies like Curtiss and Brach, no longer constrained by sugar rationing, launched national advertising campaigns specifically aimed at Halloween. If trick-or-treating had previously been a localized, hit-or-miss phenomenon, it was now a national duty." ---Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween, David J. Skal [Bloomsbury:New York] 2002 (p. 52-5)

As I also learned on What's Cooking America,

After World War II, the American practice of Trick-or-Treat began in earnest. Sprawing suburban neighborhoods delighted in watching costumed boomer children "beg" from door to door. Traditional Halloween party foods (candied/toffee apples, popcorn balls, nuts) were proferred along with pre-wrapped commercial candies. Savvy candy companies capitalized on this lucrative opportunity by selling seasonal packages containing smaller sized products. "Back in the Day" (your editor trick-or-treated on Long Island in the 1960s) it was fairly usual to get little decorative halloween bags containing all sorts of things. These were assembled at home, usually composed of loose candies (candy corn, Hershey Kisses, marsmallows, MaryJanes or Tootsie Rolls, etc.), some pennies and maybe a small toy. We also carried little milk-carton shaped boxes distributed in school and said "Trick or Treat for Unicef." Beginning in 1952, UNICEF's halloween program thrives today.

As for the Fun-Size treat?

As I learned here,

The "fun size" candy bar was introduced in 1968 by the Mars candy company. The resulting "fun size" Milky Way candy bars were 25 percent lower in total calories and had 50 percent fewer calories from fat.

But knowing that doesn't change the fact that if I could, I'd go back in time and punch the inventor. Because seriously--there is nothing fun about less candy (but here are some suggestions for how to bring the "fun" back to fun size).

Have a happy, safe, and sweet Halloween!

Tuesday
Oct262010

Trick or Sweet: Peanut Butter Cookies on a Stick for Peanut Butter and Co.

CakeSpy Note: You knew I did recipes for Peanut Butter & Co., right? Here's my latest one.

There are probably foods out there that aren’t improved by being served on a stick, but none come to mind at the moment.

But which one is the most fun to serve around Halloween? My vote goes to these peanut butter cookies on a stick. They’re part trick, decorated to look like pumpkins–but they’re even more treat, with a rich, cakey texture and rich, peanut buttery flavor that is far more delicious than any fun-size candy bar could ever hope to be.

For the full entry, visit Peanut Butter & Co.!

Tuesday
Oct262010

Things That Go Wiggle In the Night: Halloween Jell-O Jigglers for Serious Eats

Around Halloween, a lot of attention is given to things that go bump in the night. But for a moment, let's consider things that wobble: the Jell-O Jiggler.

Starting with the classic recipe from the Jell-O website, it's easy to trick out these wiggly, wobbly treats in Halloween shapes for a crowd-pleasing party snack. Of course, I'd advise against handing them out to trick-or-treaters, because there's no bigger bummer than a soggy sack of candy.

For the full entry and tutorial, check out Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Oct202010

Fry, Baby: Deep-Fried Halloween Candy for Serious Eats

It's a funny thing about Halloween candy: it actually makes you hungrier. At least, that's my theory behind how the same person who can't finish off an entire candy bar can easily put away ten "fun size" candy bars or 30 mellowcreme pumpkins in one sitting.

But there's a way to bring a substantial dimension of deliciousness to your Halloween candy: deep-fry it.

That's right. Batter up your Halloween candy and fry it in hot oil, and you've got yourself little nuggets that are beyond decadent, and bound to satisfy—one or two of these morsels is more than enough.

Note: I tried a variety of Halloween candies in this experiment, including candy corn, mellowcreme pumpkins, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Twix, Kit-Kats, and Whoppers. The biggest hit by far was the Peanut butter cups.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Monday
Oct042010

Trick or Sweet: Candy Corn Kaleidoscope Cookies for Serious Eats

It's October, and you know what that means: it's officially candy corn season.

But if you appreciate the iconic look more than the mellowcreme taste of the stuff, here's a solution: a reconfiguration of the Kaleidoscope Cooky (yes, cooky) from the Betty Crocker's Cooky Book, made to resemble the tricolor confection. Lightly crumbly, very buttery, and extremely crowd-pleasing, these cookies are a totally sweet tricked-out treat.

Note: This recipe is designed to feed a crowd; I have in the past halved it with fine results. Also, if shaping the dough into the candy corn shape seems too fussy, they're just as festive as Halloween-hued rounds.

For the full entry and recipe, visit Serious Eats!

Wednesday
Sep292010

Maybe I'm A-Maized: A Brief History of Candy Corn

Image originally used for Serious EatsEating seasonal is of interest to everyone these days, and the freshest produce in the world of sweets right now is corn--candy corn, that is.

But in the same way that one might want to meet the producer, why don't we get to know the backstory behind those little sugary cones of delicious sweetness?

Here goes.

First off: Who invented Candy Corn?

According to this article, "Bill Plumlee, the public relations manager of Brach's Candy Co., said George Renninger of the Wunderlee Candy Co. created candy corn in the 1880s."

And, to answer another question you have ("what's up with the colors, dude?"), as I also discovered in the same article,

Creators chose the three colors of candy corn, to reflect the colors of the real thing.

"It's supposed to mimic corn," Plumlee said. "Yellow on top, darker as it goes down and whitish as it nears the end."

Now, I have to squint really hard to see it that way, but maybe the inventor had very poor vision (or maybe he was color blind?).

Interestingly, as I found out on Slashfood,

 The design apparently made it popular with farmers when it first came out, but it was the fact that it had three colors - a really innovative idea - that catapulted it to popularity.

Of course, though Mr. Renninger is credited with coming up with this sweet idea, many actually assign credit to Goelitz (now part of Jelly Belly) as being the ones who really brought candy corn into the public eye:"1898. Goelitz Confectionery Company begins making candy corn or "chicken feed." They continue to make this Halloween favorite longer than any other company." ---Candy: The Sweet History, Beth Kimmerle (discovered via Food Timeline)

And to expand on that, according to the Jelly Belly site,

Our beginnings are traced back to a family named Goelitz. When two young brothers emigrated from Germany to make their mark in America, they set the family on its candymaking course. In 1869, just two years after arriving in America, Gustav Goelitz bought an ice cream and candy store in Belleville, Ill., and his brother, Albert was sent out in a horse drawn wagon to sell their sweets to nearby communities.

Then the second generation of the family jumped on the band wagon of candy innovations by making a new type of candy, then called "buttercream" candies, including Candy Corn, a sweet we've made since about 1900 (and still use the same recipe). These candies carried the family through the Great Depression and two world wars. Today, the great-grandsons of Gustav Goelitz, the fourth generation, are still carrying on the tradition of making candy.

Was it always a Halloween treat?

Interestingly, as I found on Food Timeline, candy corn wasn't always strictly associated with Halloween, but more with fall--the transition to "Halloween Candy" was perhaps a subtle shift: "Candy corn, like many other candies we enjoy at Halloween, was promoted as treats for Halloween by candy companies after WWII." (a time when, by the way, the art of Trick or Treating really began in earnest). As the writeup goes on, "Candy corn might have been especially popular because it was also a seasonal (fall) confection. Popcorn balls and candied apples are other seasonal (fall) treats conventinetly transitioned to Halloween."

How is it made?

As I learned from this interview on NPR,

In the early days, making candy corn was hard work. It was done by hand. The ingredients were cooked in huge kettles. Then, the hot candy was poured into buckets. Men poured the liquid candy corn from the buckets into kernel-shaped trays. The workers had to make three passes to create the white, yellow and orange layers. Production was so labor-intensive the candy corn was made only from March to November.

Of course, now candy corn is made by machine--I could try to explain it, but the Food Network can show you in living color:

But that's not the only thing that has changed. Per Slashfood, the ingredient list has, too:

Originally, candy corn was made of sugar, corn syrup (not HFCS), fondant and marshmallow, among other things, and the hot mixture was poured into cornstarch molds, where it set up...The recipe changed slightly over time and there are probably a few variations in recipes between candy companies, but the use of a mixture of sugar, corn syrup, gelatin and vanilla (as well as honey, in some brands) is the standard.

Of course, if you're brave, you can make candy corn at home too. I did it last year, for Serious Eats.

How do Mellowcreme Pumpkins play into it?

Mellowcreme pumpkins (and the other weird shapes that come in those "Autumn Mix" assortments) were a later addition:

Candy pumpkins first were produced in mid 20th century using a process similar to that of candy corn. Corn syrup, food coloring, honey, and sugar are beat and heated in large kettles to produce an ultra-sweet syrup.

This slurry generically is called "mellowcreme" by confectioners, since the resulting candy has a mellow, creamy texture.

They are said to appeal in a different way than candy corn because their different volume and weight makes for an "interesting texture". And in case you were wondering--yes, I prefer Mellowcreme pumpkins to candy corn.

The final word?

Even if you believe, like Serious Eats, that candy corn is "the fruitcake of halloween candy" and one of the 10 worst Halloween candies to give out, there's no denying its iconic status as a Halloween classic, and whether it's because of its classic look or simply because it's slowly going stale in your goodie bag, it's not going anywhere.

Tuesday
Nov032009

Candy Massacre: Leftover Halloween Candy Pie for Serious Eats

Leftover Halloween Candy Pie
Poor Halloween candy. Just a few days ago it was the star of the supermarket aisle, the festive treat on everyone's mind. But now, just two days later, these sweet treats are Halloween has-beens, relegated to sale bins, withering away in candy dishes.

But is there a way to breathe new life—to re-animate, if you will—this past its prime candy? I propose yes: by dumping it in a pie shell and melting it into one monstrous mash of a candy pie.
Leftover Halloween Candy Pie

This pie was the subject of my weekly sweet writeup over at Serious Eats--why not click over and check out the full post plus recipe?

Friday
Oct302009

Baker's Dozen: A Sweet Batch of Halloween Links!

Mellowcreme strikes back!
Trick or Sweet! Here is a batch of sweet Halloween links full of ideas ghoulishly delicious ideas and recipes, some from the CakeSpy archives and some from other sweet spots around the web:

Homemade Candy Corn

What happens to Halloween Candy when it dies?

Wicked Witch's hat: a super elaborate popcorn ball (and cute Halloween recipe!)

Candy Corn Nanaimo Bars

Putting the "fun" back in Fun-Size Candies!

Mellowcreme Strikes Back!

Quick and easy ghost cookies, using nutter butter cookies!

Sweet coconut-orange thumbprint cookies are delicious, and a perfect quick cookie for a Halloween party!

Ghoulish Halloween Cupcakes!

Cereal Killer: Reese's Puffs bars with buttercream frosting!

Sweet (and cute!) Dracula Cookies!

Oogly Butterfinger eyeballs!

It may not scream "Halloween"--but this four-layer pumpkin cake would make anyone's October 31 sweet.

Happy Halloween!

Monday
Oct262009

Trick or Sweet: Candy Corn Nanaimo Bars for Serious Eats

Halloween Treats!
What do Nanaimo Bars wear for Halloween?

Candy corn topping, of course.

For this week's entry on Serious Eats, I decked out the decadent Canadian treat with a sweet Halloween topping, swapping out the typical chocolate topping for melted candy corn. The result is a treat that is unforgivingly sweet and unabashedly rich: that is to say, completely awesome.
Halloween Treats!

You can find the recipe for Candy Corn Nanaimo Bars here; for the classic Nanaimo Bar recipe (as well as some lore!), you can visit this previous CakeSpy feature!

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