Imagine your family's surprise if sweet little rats appear next to their breakfast bowls of oatmeal — or in their lunch boxes. And how much fun will it be for costumed guests to nibble on meringue bones and ghosts and marzipan pumpkins at an evening Halloween party?
We couldn't agree more.
Among suggestions in Rigg's book, "Halloween Treats: Simply Spooky Recipes for Ghoulish Sweet Treats" (Ryland Peters & Small, $16.95): "Tint store-bought marzipan using orange food coloring paste. Break off little nuggets and roll into pumpkins of assorted sizes," she writes. "Use a toothpick to mark ridges around the sides and make a stalk from green colored sugar paste." After drying, perch them in "earth" made from crushing the chocolate cookie in Oreos.
Elizabeth LaBau, a Los Angeles-based food writer and confectioner, has been writing about candy for About.com for a half-dozen years. "You think I would be done with Halloween ideas," LaBau told us. She's not.
"I love playing with Halloween shapes. I have a whole series of truffles that are like witch heads, mummy heads, ghosts," she says, of recipes on the website. "Some have jam in the center so they sort of bleed out. ...All these iconic shapes and making them edible, there's an element of artistry as well as fun.
"Like a lot of baking, candy-making is about following the recipe in the beginning. It's a little more precise," says LaBau, whose new book, "The Sweet Book of Candy Making" (Quarry Books, $24.99) is packed with candy-making tips. "So you really need to not take as many liberties with the temperature and the instructions, at least the first time you make it or until you're comfortable with the recipe.
"A few degrees in some candies can be the difference between fudge that's like caramel sauce and fudge that's like a rock," she adds. "With that being said, candy-making should be fun and there should be the freedom to experiment and try different flavors. You want to have sort of that playfulness. It's sort of a tightrope you're walking between following a recipe but also trying to have that creative joy."
Prep: 35 minutes
Bake: 40 minutes
Makes: About 20 bones
Note: Adapted from "Halloween Treats," by Annie Rigg. Can be made 1 to 2 days ahead and stored in an airtight container. A variation? Ghost meringues. If you are concerned about the risk of salmonella being present in raw eggs, use pasteurized eggs.
1 cup superfine sugar
3 1/2 ounces egg whites, 3 to 4 eggs
Pinch of salt
Black writing icing
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Place sugar in a small roasting pan. Heat on middle shelf of oven until sugar is hot to the touch, about 4 minutes. When sugar is hot, remove from oven. Reduce oven temperature to 225 degrees.
2. Put egg whites and salt in a bowl of an electric mixer or use a whisk; beat until foamy. Add hot sugar all at once; whisk on medium high speed until meringue is very thick, super glossy and white, about 6 minutes.
3. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/8-inch tip; line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon meringue into pastry bag; pipe into 4-inch logs on prepared baking sheets, spacing them well apart. Pipe two balls of meringue at end of each log to make bone shape. Bake on middle shelf of oven until crisp, 40 minutes. Turn oven off; allow bones to cool inside.
Pipe meringue into slightly wobbly cone shapes on prepared baking sheets. Bake 1 hour until crisp then cool as before. Use black writing icing to give ghosts eyes.
Prep: 30-40 minutes
Dry: 2 hours
Makes: 12 creatures
Note: Adapted from "Halloween Treats" by Annie Rigg; she makes the rats' faces with different icing colors. We used small candies and touches of black gel and pre-made pink frosting.
2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/3 cups desiccated (dried) coconut
Red licorice laces, white sugar pearls, black coloring gel, pink candies or pre-made pink frosting
1. Place condensed milk, confectioners' sugar and coconut in a bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon until mixture starts to come together; work in last bit of sugar with your hands. Add black food coloring gel a little at a time; continue mixing until smooth and evenly colored.
2. Break off walnut-size pieces; roll with your hands into a cone shape. Pinch two little ears on narrow end of each cone; squeeze point into a nose shape. Use a skewer to poke a hole into the fat end of each rat; push in a piece of red licorice for a tail. Tuck a small pink candy into the snout or dot with pink frosting. Tuck white sugar pearls in for eyes; dot eyes with black coloring gel for pupils. Let rats dry on parchment paper, at least 2 hours.