Witch finger cookies – a Halloween tradition


You know, I really was not in the mood to make witch finger cookies this year. I had been baking all day – had already made the shortbread-like dough for rolling out and shaping into these “fingers”, but the labor that goes into standing there, rolling them, making sure they are thin enough that they do not look giant (the dough puffs up a lot), that the little slits I cut into them are placed so that they look like a reasonable facsimile of knuckles, and so on … makes these (possibly) more trouble than they are worth.

Even so, what other cookies can so easily horrify people? It’s a tradition now – I have to make these every Halloween, or it’s just not Halloween! Granted, I cannot say I was completely successful this year – a colleague told me that they looked like something entirely different to him upon first glance (something more phallic and not work-friendly). Decide for yourself.


witch finger cookies

Witch finger cookies

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla
2 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup whole blanched almonds
raspberry jam, deseeded

In bowl, beat together butter, sugar, egg and vanilla. Stir dry ingredients together, then add to wet and stir thoroughly. Cover and chill (from 30 minutes to overnight).

Working with one quarter of the dough at a time and keeping remainder refrigerated, roll a scant tablespoon of dough into a thin snake-like shape (4 or so inches long). Create knuckle shapes and cut slashes where you form the knuckles. Press almond firmly into the end of the cookie to form nail shape, remove almond and fill with a dot of jam, then replace the almond. They should be thin and gangly because they will puff up when baking.

Put cookies on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake in a preheated 325F/160C oven for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden. Let cool for a few minutes.

You can also make slashes in the finger and fill them with “blood”.

Happy Halloween orange-and-black Snickerdoodles



For not the first time, I made Halloween-themed, pimped-out orange-and-black sugar Snickerdoodles.

My best friend in younger years, T., celebrated her birthday on Halloween – and on an entirely unrelated note, we used to bake Snickerdoodles together almost every weekend. I have been thinking about her a lot lately… not that I have not always thought of her. We never really had a falling out so much as we had a growing apart. Our interests were not the same, we wanted different things, we were young. It was never that I did not care – but upon reflection, I remember feeling very alone, awkward, depressed and even desperate around the time that we really drifted apart. Things had a kind of floating tendency between us. At different points in the friendship, it was as though one of us led and the other followed. But either way it was a comfortable pattern as long as we were content to travel in each other’s orbits. Once we were in different orbits, though, there was really nothing left to say and neither of us would have followed the other.

The last time I spoke to her was in the middle of 1999. I tried in vain to get in touch with her in the ensuing years, and later with her family, just to find out if she was okay – but I never got an answer. It is strange in this day and age that an entire family can fall so far off the grid. Not a single member of the family can be found online – people from high school repeatedly come to me and ask how they can get in touch with her since I was perceived as her best friend. But sadly I don’t have any better idea than they do.

For a number of years, I was haunted by thoughts and dreams of her – strange, subconscious worry and concern. Every single night for many years, she appeared in all my dreams like some kind of pesky phantom. Sometimes she figured into the main plotline, sometimes she was a minor character. Either way, she was always there. It took a long time to realize how painful I had found all of this to be – the fact that we had no friendship or connection, particularly at a vulnerable time in my own life. It did not fully hit me until recently just how vulnerable she may have been – probably a much more fragile character on the whole than I had ever been despite how ridiculous I felt back then.

Sometimes I long for the simplicity of the days when all we really had to care about was baking cookies and going to Depeche Mode concerts, before time splintered everything into a million shards. Everything now is just hazy memory – I question so much of it as an adult. It is so much easier, nearing middle age, to look at things with a mixture of objectivity and compassion.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C)
t. is for teaspoon; T. is tablespoon; c. is cup

1½ c. sugar
½ c. butter
½ c. shortening
2 eggs
2¾ c. flour
2 t. cream of tartar
1 t. baking soda
¼ t. salt
2 T. sugar
2 T. cinnamon

Mix sugar, butter, shortening, egg. Stir in flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt. Mix sugar and cinnamon together. In order to bake, roll dough into small balls and roll balls in the sugar-cinnamon mixture and bake on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 minutes.