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Nigella Lawson Cut-Out Cookies

Ingredients Cookies: Icing: 2 to 3 tablespoons just-boiled water 1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted Food coloring, preferably pastes Special equipment: cookie cutters 6 tablespoons soft unsalted butter 1/2 cup sugar 1 large egg 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and moving towards moussiness, then beat in the egg and vanilla. In another bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter and eggs, and mix gently but surely. If you think the finished mixture is too sticky to be rolled out, add more flour, but do so sparingly as too much will make the dough tough. Form into a fat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Sprinkle a suitable surface with flour, place disk of dough on it, and sprinkle a little more flour on top of that. Then roll it out to a thickness of about 1/4-inch. Cut into shapes, dipping the cutter into flour as you go, and place the cookies a little apart on 2 parchment or silpat lined baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes; obviously it depends on the shape you're using and whether they are on the upper or lower shelf, though you can swap them around after about 5 minutes. When they're ready expect them to be tinged a pronounced gold around the edges; they'll be softish still in the middle, but set while they cool. Remove the cookies with a flat, preferably flexible, spatula to a wire rack. When they are fully cooled, you can get on with the icing. Put a couple of tablespoons of not-quite-boiling water into a large bowl, add the sieved confectioners sugar and mix together, adding more water as you need to form a thick paste. Color,as desired. I think pastes are much better than liquid, not just because the range of colors is better but because they don't dilute the icing as they tint. Ice cooled cookies, as desired.

Skull Madeleines (Makes about 5 dozen)

These macabre treats, so sweet yet so sinister, will make even the bravest eaters tremble. The marshmallow skulls top madeleines shrouded in bittersweet chocolate. Ingredients FOR THE MADELEINES 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, sifted 2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons boiling water 1 large egg, room temperature 1 large egg yolk, room temperature 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons cake flour (not self-rising), sifted 7 tablespoons sugar 1/4 teaspoon baking powder 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, plus more for pans

FOR THE GLAZE 8 ounces bittersweet chocolate (preferably 61 percent), finely chopped 1 cup heavy cream 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

Directions 1. Make the madeleines: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Generously butter mini-madeleine pans. 2. Whisk cocoa powder and water in a medium bowl until smooth. Let cool slightly, then whisk in egg, yolk, and vanilla until incorporated. 3. Beat flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt with a mixer on low speed until combined. Raise speed to medium, and add butter and 1/2 the cocoa mixture. Beat for 2 minutes, then scrape sides of bowl. Beat in remaining cocoa mixture on medium speed until completely combined, scraping sides of bowl as needed. 4. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch round tip, and pipe into buttered pans, filling each 3/4 full. (Refrigerate batter between batches.) Bake, rotating halfway, until testers inserted in centers come out clean and madeleines spring back when pressed, 8 to 10 minutes. Unmold onto wire racks, and let cool. (Unglazed madeleines can be refrigerated up to 3 days.) 5. Make the glaze: Place chocolate in a food processor. Bring cream and corn syrup to a simmer in a small saucepan, whisking until combined. Pour over chocolate, and process until smooth. 6. Set racks with madeleines over parchment-lined baking sheets. Spoon some of the glaze over each madeleine to coat. Transfer to clean parchment-lined baking sheets. Refrigerate until glaze is firm, 15 to 20 minutes. Push sticky side of marshmallow skulls into madeleines, and serve immediately.

Marshmallow Skulls Ingredients Makes 5 dozen. 5 dozen large marshmallows Black sprinkles for the face

Directions 1. Using scissors, trim 1/3 of curved side from each marshmallow to create a flat surface. Trim a sliver from 2 sides of the bottom of each marshmallow at an angle for a tapered chin. Cut a slit above chin for a mouth. 2. Using a toothpick, poke 2 holes halfway down each marshmallow for eyes and 1 in between for a nose. Pour sprinkles onto a plate. They will be different sizes; choose 1 small and 2 large for each. Insert small sprinkle for nose and larger sprinkles for eyes.

Bat and Cobweb Cookies

Just as setting out milk and cookies will appease a jolly elf, these gingerbread critters are sure to tame ornery beasts. Lemony royal icing cloaks the cookies with spider web and bat disguises. Use extra icing to give the bats staring eyes and to make chubby spiders. Ingredients Makes about 30. 6 cups all-purpose flour (sifted, then measured), plus more for dusting 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 8 ounces (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 1 cup packed dark-brown sugar 4 teaspoons ground ginger 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves 1 1/2 teaspoons salt 2 large eggs 1 1/2 cups unsulfured molasses Royal Icing

Directions 1. Sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together into a large bowl; set aside. 2. Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat on medium-high speed until fluffy. Beat in ginger, cinnamon, cloves and salt. Beat in eggs and molasses. Reduce speed to low; beat in flour mixture. 3. Divide dough into three equal pieces, and flatten into disks. Wrap each in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 1 hour. 4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Print out the bat and cobweb templates found here, and cut them out. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out dough to 1/8 inch thick. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. Using templates and a paring knife, cut dough into shapes. Transfer shapes to baking sheets and refrigerate 15 minutes. 5. Bake until crisp but not darkened, 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks. Decorate with royal icing.

Royal Icing
You can substitute 5 tablespoons meringue powder and 1/3 cup water for raw eggs. Ingredients Makes about 2 1/2 cups. 2 large egg whites, or more to thin icing 4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar, or more to thicken icing 1 lemon, juiced

Directions 1. Beat the whites until stiff but not dry. Add sugar and lemon juice; beat for 1 minute more. If icing is too thick, add more egg whites; if it is too thin, add more sugar. The icing may be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Ghost Cupcakes
Jumbo and mini cupcakes, held together by marshmallows, are cloaked with fondant to create deliciously creepy ghosts. Ingredients Makes 12 Ghost cupcakes. Unsalted butter, for tins All-purpose flour, for tins Devil's Food Cake Batter Thick Ghostly Chocolate Frosting 18 large marshmallows, halved lengthwise 72 ounces white fondant Cornstarch, for surface 24 chocolate-candy-coated sunflower seeds, for eyes Royal Icing and Fleurs-de-lis, optional

Directions 1. Preheat oven to 350. Line 12 cups of a jumbo-muffin tin (each 1-cup capacity) with extralarge cupcake liners. Butter and flour 12 cups of a mini-muffin tin, and tap out excess flour. 2. Divide batter among muffin tins, filling each cup 1/2 full. Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until testers inserted in centers come out clean, 8 to 9 minutes for mini cupcakes, and 40 to 45 minutes for large cupcakes. Let cool in pans on wire racks. (Cupcakes can be wrapped in plastic, and frozen for up to 1 month; thaw at room temperature before frosting.) 3. Remove cupcake liners from large cupcakes, trim tops of each cupcake to create a flat surface, and reserve tops for another use. Flip cupcakes over. Spread 1 teaspoon frosting on top of each cupcake. Arrange 3 marshmallow halves on top of each (pictured right), cut sides down, pressing them into frosting. Spread 1 teaspoon frosting over each marshmallow trio. 4. Trim tops of each mini cupcake to create a flat surface, and reserve tops for another use. Press 1 mini cupcake, cut side down, onto frosting-topped marshmallows. 5. Spread 1/4 cup frosting over each cupcake stack to create a crumb coat, leaving a 1/4-inch unfrosted rim around bottom. Refrigerate until firm, about 30 minutes. 6. Divide fondant into 12 equal pieces. On a surface lightly dusted with cornstarch, roll a piece of fondant into a 1/4-inch-thick, 10-inch-wide circle. Center fondant over top of 1 frosted cupcake, smoothing downward and creating ruffles around the bottom. Press candy-coated seeds into soft fondant for eyes, remove, dot with royal icing to secure if desired, and then press seeds into icing. Repeat with remaining fondant, cupcakes, and seeds. Let fondant harden slightly at room temperature before serving.

Devil's Food Cake Batter

Ingredients Makes enough for one 9-inch cake and one 11-inch cake. 3/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water 3 3/4 cups cake flour (not self-rising), sifted 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda 3/4 teaspoon coarse salt 15 ounces (3 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 2 3/4 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 5 large eggs, room temperature 1 1/4 cups whole milk

Directions 1. Mix cocoa powder and boiling water in a bowl until smooth. Let cool. 2. Sift flour, baking soda, and salt into a large bowl. Beat butter and sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping bowl as needed. 3. Pour milk into cocoa mixture in a slow, steady stream, whisking until smooth. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with cocoa-milk mixture, starting and ending with flour mixture. Use immediately.

Thick Ghostly Chocolate Frosting

This frosting is part of the recipe for Ghost Cupcakes. Ingredients Makes about 3 cups. 2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt 6 ounces cream cheese, softened 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened 3/4 cup sour cream 9 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted

Directions 1. Beat cream cheese and butter with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes. 2. Reduce speed to low, and slowly add sugar mixture until incorporated. Beat in sour cream, scrape bowl, then beat in melted chocolate. Beat mixture on medium speed until glossy and smooth. Use immediately (or cover, and refrigerate for up to 3 days; beat with a spatula before using).