To me, there’s no better smell than the inside of a pumpkin. Except for maybe fresh cut grass…or wild blackberries…or warm chocolate chip cookies…or pine needles…or homemade bread…or new shoes…or apple pie…but yeah, other than those, pumpkin is definitely the best smell in the world! Every single year, just before Halloween, I carve a pumpkin, and one of my favorite things to do (no judging, please) is to stick my face in the gigantic bowl of pumpkin guts and just inhale. Stop. I said no judging. Pumpkin guts smell like leaves crunching underfoot as I stomped around the pumpkin patch picking out the most perfect, round, orange pumpkin; they smell like arguing with my mom before trick-or-treating as she forced a warm winter coat over my thin costume, claiming that I’d be glad I had it once I was outside in the cold. Pumpkin guts smell like walking down dark streets with a flashlight in one hand and a plastic pumpkin-shaped bucket in the other, shaking my bucket around so I could judge how much candy I’d collected so far. Pumpkin guts smell like coming home to a warm house after hours of trick-or treating and dumping my loot onto the rug, sorting my candy into little piles and giving all the raisins and Bit-o-honeys to my mom and dad. I love pumpkin guts.
In case you couldn’t tell, I’m a sucker for holiday traditions, and one of the best ways to celebrate holidays is through baking, of course! There are some recipes I make year after year, and each year I also like to try out some new ones. I’ve eaten witches’ fingers cookies at multiple Halloween parties throughout my life, but last year I tried making them myself. These are a great cookie to make with kids, and are always a hit at gatherings. You can tint them green and call them witches’ fingers or leave them whitish and just call them fingers. Definitely gross either way. Gross looking that is, because underneath all those bloody fingernails and green skin is a delicious almond sugar cookie. But please don’t go around telling your guests that these are delicious almond sugar cookies. I’d go with bloody-cuticled witch claws…much more appetizing!
Witches’ Fingers Cookies
Yield: 32 cookies
1/2 cup (8 Tbs) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
5 Tbs granulated sugar
1 large egg, plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp almond extract
1/8 tsp salt
5-6 drops green food coloring (optional)
2 cups all-purpose flour
32 slivered almonds
Red gel food coloring
In a large bowl, beat together the butter and sugars until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. Add in the egg, egg yolk, almond extract, salt, and food coloring; mix well. Stir in the flour, mixing just until combined. Form the dough into a ball, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
After the dough has chilled, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line or lightly grease cookie sheets. Take one half of the dough out of the fridge and divide into 16 equal pieces. On a lightly floured surface, use your hands to roll each piece into a finger shape about 4-4.5 inches long. Pinch each piece of dough in two places to create knuckles. Use the back of a small knife to lightly score the surface of the knuckles. Place the cookies onto the prepared sheets. Repeat with the remaining half of dough.
When all the cookies are shaped, make a small indentation at the tip of each finger. Squirt a small amount of the red gel food coloring into the indentation and carefully place a slivered almond on top for a nail. Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until cookies are set and lightly browned around the edges. Let cool on the sheets for at least 5 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
(Recipe adapted from Annie’s Eats)