I LOVE Halloween and wished everyone I passed this morning a hearty Happy Halloween… I got that dead-silent no-one’s-getting-it cricket-noise response; what a pity we haven’t embraced the whole event the way the Americans have. What’s not to love about having the opportunity to wear a ridiculous costume, and then go demanding sweets from other people? And on top of all of that, you get to make absolutely revolting food like these knobbly severed witch finger biscuits!
These pokey, pointy philanges are completely kitsch (one day I will learn to restrain myself with the amount and shade of “blood”) but somehow they still make people nervous. I served them out of a little trick or treat bucket, and since everybody loves a treat in went the eager paws… and then came the look on the faces… wish I had had a camera on hand for the expressions!
I made these biscuits last Halloween using a recipe from one of the many hundred out there on the net. I didn’t love the result though – very soft and aerated, and they looked like green sea slugs rather than bony fingers. So this year I tried a basic butter recipe from the South African Cookbook, and now I think it must be something I’m doing wrong because I got a very similar result with the first batch (this is the reason for the vague flour quantity) (wait, let’s not call it vague, let’s rename it an “organic approach”). Next year I will try again with the easiest recipe I know – Sonya Biscuits – for easier shaping and better texture. What a pity Halloween only comes once a year!
For lots and lots (80-100?) spooky witches fingers:
360g cake flour plus extra – almost double, if I were to make an organic guess
1 tablespoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
2 extra-large eggs, beaten
1 teaspoon of vanilla essence
a few drops of green gel food colouring
Lots of whole almonds with the skin still on
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius and line a cookie sheet (I use a silicon sheet – my new favourite invention).
Cream the butter and sugar together. Maybe I over-creamed it. Is it possible to over-cream? Hmm.
Sift the dry ingredients together, and beat the wet ingredients together. Resist the urge to scramble the green eggs while reciting from the Dr Seuss book. Add the dry then the wet alternately bit by bit to the creamed mixture, then allow the mixture to relax in the fridge for at least an hour. I did this and when I poked at it an hour later, I found that it was very soft and mushy which is not ideal for shaping into fingers. So I added flour bit by bit until I could work with the dough. I was quite cross and hot and bothered and I would have very much liked an hour in the fridge myself.
Pinch off small blobs of dough (really tiny – initially I made the fingers too big, and instead of a first batch of witch fingers I had a batch of Shrek fingers. I couldn’t remember what his fingernails looked like though, so couldn’t just do a quick conversion. So I ate them for supper with coffee). Roll the blob into a ball, then holding your one hand out palm-up, use your other hand to roll it up and down the middle three fingers – this will give it indentations in the right places to look knuckle-y. If an end gets a bit long and wonky, just pinch it off.
Lay the fingers on the baking sheet (if you’re not sure of the size, just bake one or two first to check) and lightly press a whole almond into the end of each, pointy end facing out. Bake for 10-15 minutes (depends on the thickness of the fingers) – they should just barely begin to brown on the edges.
Remove from the tray to cool while you bake the rest.
For the gory blood:
1 room temperature egg white
1 and 3/4 cups icing sugar
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Red gel food colouring
Black gel food colouring – such a small amount that it’s not even a hint, just a subtle suggestion
Using an electric beater, beat the egg whites in a spotlessly clean and fat-free bowl until stiff but not dry. I’d say soft peak is perfect. Gradually add the sugar and lemon juice while beating until a thick but pourable royal icing forms. Add colour until you’re happy with the shade – now keep it covered with cling because it dries quite quickly.
Once the biscuits are done, gently remove the almond “nail”. Put a tiny blob of blood into the cavity, then press the almond back in so that the blood oozes out round the edges. Dip the other end of the finger into the blood, and allow to dry. I cut the ends of the fingers off so that it looked more rough and broken. Also, admittedly, so that I could eat the cut-offs. Oops.
Offer them round and watch all the men (note: I only ever see the dudes do this) recoil in horror before taking one for politeness’ sake, then coming back for another with a most surprised expression on their faces when they tell you it was good. Pack up the treat bucket and witch hat, and wait it out for a whole nother year before repeating…
PS: Turns out that I wasn’t too far off the mark with the Shrek fingers – macadamias would have worked well:
(you can buy the glove here, if you want a good template, or want to scare small children)