Baking Secrets: Annie scares up a monster of a cookie

  • Annie Overboe uses assorted seasonal candies to create scary, and not so scary faces, for her Halloween Monster Cookies.

      Annie Overboe uses assorted seasonal candies to create scary, and not so scary faces, for her Halloween Monster Cookies. Mark Black | Staff Photographer

 
Posted10/14/2014 6:00 AM

I love parties, and Halloween, more than any other holiday, provides a "sky's-the-limit" opportunity for me to showcase my creative talents. For me and other bakers the trick to success -- and culinary acclaim among our friends -- lies in knowing how to spin our favorite desserts into spooky treats.

Bakers often strive for perfection; however keeping things rustic in Halloween desserts allows for the seasonal spirit to set the stage. Unusual ingredients and techniques come together to create a visual cue that reaches back into our memories.

 

Ground-up chocolate cookies give the impression of dirt and when presented in a ghoulish backdrop easily morph into a spooky graveyard. A hint of Halloween orange and a few gummy candies complete the transformation.

This Halloween I pushed aside darling cupcakes; they just don't possess a spooky reputation. Monster cookies, however, sound gargantuan and scary. Crafting a Frankenstein of a cookie forced me to think differently about the usual cookie ingredients. Not wanting to rely solely upon decoration to impart a monster theme, I looked for a cookie base with substantial texture and intriguing flavors.

Oatmeal cookies fit the bill, but I would have to address the underdeveloped taste and texture.

Looking to my favorite chocolate chip recipe, I noticed that toasted nuts bump up the favor; for this cookie I decided to chop walnuts into smaller uniform size and toast them alongside rolled oats to enhanced the texture and taste. This monster began to take shape.

Infusing a chewy texture into a thick body called for the special characteristic of butter and dark brown sugar. Together in a cookie, butter melds with the molasses of dark brown sugar to provide palate-pleasing chewiness.

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The toasted nuts and oatmeal along with the dark brown sugar developed the savory notes of the dough. To play up against the background caramel flavor, I increased the salt and baking soda. This boosted the salty/sweet flavor of the dough and leveled rising during baking.

Seeing the recipe as more about the monster theme than a cookie, it screamed for a boost of ingredient chaos. A small amount of chopped unsweetened coconut adds interest without dominating the flavor profile. Mini chocolate chips keep a low profile while stirring in dark sinister edginess to the creature's body.

The monster cookie comes to life with a splash of vanilla or orange extract, baker's choice. Today's recipe includes spirited ideas to complete the monster transformation from cookie to a hauntingly culinary experience. Happy Halloween!

• Annie Overboe, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, lives in Oakbrook Terrace. Write to her at food@dailyherald.com.

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