Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Chocolate Skeleton Cookies for Halloween

My years of study and my medical degree have all been leading up to this moment - skeleton biscuits. The science nerd in me desperately wanted to have intense attention to detail and anatomical accuracy, but it very soon became apparent that that wasn't going to be possible! Both because of the disproportionate nature of my biscuit cutter and the difficulty of piping small details.

When I was a kid I was one of the only people I knew that went trick or treating for Halloween. This was because we had American neighbours who would organise it in our street and they did a great job of it. Today, mostly because of the rapid Americanization of this country, Halloween trick or treating is becoming slightly more common. But, it poses a new problem for Aussie households, because it's difficult to know if you'll get any kids knocking on your door expecting lollies. 

When I was a kid, our neighbours organised a great system. We would write a little note saying that we would be coming around trick or treating and attached a balloon. People who were happy for us to come to their door would attach the balloon to their letterbox and we only went to the houses that had a balloon out the front. This made it safer for us kids, and easier for the households because if they didn't want to be bothered with us then we didn't come to their door.

Not celebrating any sort of Halloween generally in this country, last year I didn't even know it was Halloween when we heard a little knock on the door and the excited voices of some children. A rapid inventory in my head revealed to me that we had absolutely nothing in the house that we could give them. So, we kept very still and quiet and pretended that we weren't home until they went away. Cowardly? Perhaps. But what could I say to them?

This year I decided to be prepared so I bought some lollies. The problem, however, is that I have no idea how may (if any) kids will knock on my door. So I made some little bags of lollies but if more than 6 kids come knocking on my door then I don't know what I'll do. If less than 6 kids knock on my door then I'll be left with lollies that I don't want which will probably end up in the bin! It's a conundrum really, and makes me think that when I have children I will certainly reinstate the balloon system so that my neighbours will know that 1) my kids are coming and 2) roughly how many kids will be coming!

Even though I don't celebrate Halloween, I decided to give these chocolate skeleton biscuits a try. Why? Three reasons:
1) I thought they would look really cool!
2) The vast majority of my readers are Americans, so I thought they might like them :)
3) If no kids come knocking on my door then at lease I am perfectly happy to eat all these up (unlike most lollies).

In honour of my American readers I have even gone so far as to name these 'cookies'.

Chocolate Skeleton Cookies

1/3 cup canola oil
1/3 cup sugar
1/8 cup pomegranate molasses (of you don't have this then substitute treacle or blackstrap molasses)
1/4 cup rice/soy milk, plus 1 tbsp
1 1/2 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1/3 cup cocoa

38g (approx.) nuttelex (or other non dairy margarine)
1/2 cup soft icing mixture
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

NOTE: I iced my skeletons with a simple buttercream, but if you would rather use a glaze which will set hard (which you would want to if you were wrapping these up to give as a gift, then use the glaze recipe from my Super Gingery Gingerbread People Biscuits)

To Make
1. Whisk the canola oil, sugar, molasses and 1/4 cup milk together. 
2. . Add one cup of flour and whisk through. After this you will want to put the whisk aside and get a wooden spoon because the mix will get too stiff.
3. Add the bicarb, baking powder, cocoa and the other half a cup of flour and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon. Add the final tbsp of rice milk and knead into a ball (easiest if you just get your hands dirty).
4. Wrap the biscuit dough up in plastic wrap and flatten slightly into a thick disk. Refrigerate for about an hour and a half (or as long as it takes before you have time to make them - you can leave in the fridge for up to 2 days), but make sure you take it out of the fridge 10 mins before using to soften it up a bit.
5. Preheat the oven to 170 degrees C.
6. Flour your benchspace and roll out the dough to about 1/2 cm thick (keep the piece of plastic wrap aside though as you will use it again). Use a person shaped biscuit cutter to cut out the biscuits and transfer them carefully to a tray lined with baking paper (you will want to do this with a thin spatula). Continue until you can't fit any more out of your rolled dough.
7. Grab up all the little extra bits of dough and put them back in the plastic wrap. Wrap tightly and knead a bit before flattening out into a disc shape again (this will smoosh all the pieces together). The roll this piece out and cut some more.
8. Keep repeating step 7 until as many biscuits are cut out of the dough as possible. 

9. Bake each batch for about 7 minutes (if you know your oven is very hot you will probably want to reduce that to 6 mins, or reduce the temp) and then transfer to a cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before icing.

1. Combine the nuttelex, icing mixture and vanilla in a bowl. Cream together and spoon into a piping bag with a small round tip. Pipe your best skeleton outline onto the biscuits.

If you don't want to roll out the people shaped biscuits and pipe the skeletons on, you can just roll these into regular round biscuits and then pipe some spiders, bats or spider webs on. It's a bit less effort but still looks pretty cool.

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