Jack-o-Lantern Slice and Bake cookies
Y herida por un sable sin remaches ves llorar la biblia contra un calefonCambalache, Carlos Gardel
Jack-o-lantern cookies (using a Sable cookie dough)
- 1 small (~1 inch/2.5cm) pumpkin shaped cookie cutter (or any shape really for the occasion)
- 1 large egg
- 10 tablespoons unsalted butter softened
- 78 g granulated sugar ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 212 g all-purpose flour ~1½ cups
- orange gel food colouring gel gives you a vibrant colour without adding enough liquid to the dough to alter the texture
- green gel food colouring
- sprinkles, colored sugar, any cake decoration items that fit your design
Prep the egg
- You may already know how to hard boil an egg, but this way prevents the dark layer from forming between the yolk and the white. Put the egg in a small sauce pan and cover by an extra inch with cold water. On high heat, bring the water to a boil. Once it's boiling, remove the pan from the stove, cover it and let stand for 10 minutes. While it's cooking, set up a small bowl with ice water, once the 10 minutes is up, move the egg over to the ice water for 5 more minutes. Peel the egg, discard the white (or use it for something else) and push the yolk through a fine strainer into small bowl.
- In your stand mixer, using the paddle, beat butter, granulated sugar, salt, and egg yolk from step 1, on medium speed until pale and fluffy, around 4 minutes, scraping the bowl when needed. Reduce speed to low, and add vanilla, mixing until incorporated. With the mixer stopped; add flour and mix on low speed until just combined, about 30 seconds. Using a spatula, press dough together just so you can easily remove it from the mixer.
- Transfer the dough to counter and weigh it. Using a bit of math, divide the dough into 3: 60% will be left un-dyed, 20% will be orange and 20% green, these are ballpark figures, it will depend on the size of your cookie cutters and your design.Roll and squish the white dough into a disk, firmly wrap it in cling film, and put it in the refrigerator.
- The chilling time between steps will be about 2 hours in the fridge or 45 minutes in the freezer, this will shorten depending on the shape and quantity of dough you're chilling, as the assembled dough logs get larger, they'll need more time to chill, as the coloured hunks of dough you're working with get smaller, they'll need less time to warm up to a workable consistency.
- As you work through assembly, remember: you'll want the dough you're adding to to be firm, and the dough you're adding to be warmer and more workable. After you finish any construction step, you can walk away if you need to and resume on another day, just tightly wrap the dough in cling film and return it to the fridge.Whenever the shape allows it, I wrap the dough in parchment paper before the cling film layer. I don't know why, I just do.
- Knead orange food colouring gel into the first smaller bit of dough, I don't like to knead it long if I can help it, so be a bit generous with your dye to start. I use tubes, and tend to flatten the dough or icing out and then put dots of food colouring, for something like this, I'll easily start with 20-30 dots and then add more if needed. Do the same with green and the other small of dough. work both colours as little as possible but get a rich and consistent colour.
- Mold the orange dough into a bar that's just about as thick as your cookie cutter is tall and as wide as your shape is tall. With these cookie cutters I go for just shy of 3cm thick so I can lift the cookie cutter back out of the bar. Since the stem will be a different colour, it doesn't need to be wide enough for the stem to also be cut. Tightly wrap this up and set it to chill. (I don't have the pumpkin handy for this photo – so we'll just pretend)
- About a half hour before you're ready for the next step, pull the green dough out of the fridge to warm up a little. You'll find as you work through the steps and there's less and less dough to add to the assembled cookie dough, it needs less time to warm up simply because there's less of it, something about volume and surface area, and ambient temperature… science.
- Using a cutter with a triangle shape or side (I used the bottom of a heart cookie cutter), or if you're brave, freehand with a knife, cut out a zig zag from one side of the orange bar – this will be filled in with green to make the stems and leaves on the pumpkins.
- Working with small bits of green, fill in the triangles you've just cut, point first. Be careful to not leave gaps, thoroughly fill the triangles. Once the green has mostly filled in the new cut outs, start adding green in bigger bits and build up the bar so it's big enough for your cookie cutter to cut the full shape. Gather the discarded orange together, wrap it and the orange and green bar up tightly and set aside in your chiller of choice.
- Once your orange and green bar is firm, pull it back out of the fridge or freezer, and onto the counter. Cut as many pumpkins as you can out of your bar, using your finger to push them out of the cutter. Once you have your pumpkins line them up one after another gently squishing them together to make a pumpkin shaped log. I make two logs around 5 inches long each. Working carefully so as not to mangle the shape, and smooth the seams over with your finger. If they get too soft, pop them back in the fridge to firm up and then resume work on this step. Once assembled into two pumpkin shaped logs, wrap them up and send them back to the chiller.
- Peel or cut apart the remaining orange and green as best you can – don't worry about being perfect. Wrap the leftover dough up and guess what? Pop it in the fridge or freezer. This will be used for the outer edge of the cookie.
- About 30 minutes (assuming you're using the fridge, not the freezer) before you bring out the pumpkins logs, get the white dough out to let it warm up to be workable.
- Once firm, get the pumpkin logs out of the chiller and immediate set to work creating the "white space" around the pumpkins. Starting with the small details and spaces, the bit at the bottom of the pumpkin and around the stem, start filling in the logs with the white dough. I do this by rolling thin snakes and pressing them into place. Once the shape is rounded out to a log, roll the remaining white dough into a rectangle and wrap it around the log. You may have a little scrap left that isn't worth rolling out and adding to the log. Wrap it, chill it. It may come in handy. Wrap up your pumpkin log(s) and back to the chiller.
- This is it… the final decoration layer. Get out all your scrap dough about 10-15 minutes before your pumpkin cookie logs and once ready to work with, roll the orange and green into snakes – medium sized and and as long as your cookie logs. Line them up one next to the other, and roll them flat across the snakes mostly. You're looking to get a rectangle that will wrap around the logs. Heres where the scrap of white comes into play – you may find it's just what you need to get a big enough rectangle. Dye it however you like to finish off the pattern. Don't worry if you couldn't fully separate the green from the orange after you cut pumpkins, this will be sliced into cookies, you won't really notice if the outer edge was swirly or stripey.
- Set your oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and pre-heat the oven to 350°F/180°C/160° C fan. Prep 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Working with 1 dough log at a time, leaving the other in the chiller to stay firm, slice ¼ inch thick rounds with a sharp knife and space them about an inch apart on the baking sheet. They will spread slightly while baking, but not much. At this point, sometimes I press big (seriously, small rock sized) grains of black decoration sugar in for eyes, nose etc.
- Bake cookies until the centers add a bit of golden brown to the pumpkin's orange, and the edges are slightly darker than centers, about 15 minutes, switching and rotating sheets around the 7 minute mark. Because of the colouring in the decoration, it's hard to go by colour, the time is pretty dead on for the oven temperature, so you'll take colour and time into account to decide when they're "done".When you pull the cookies from the oven, you can press cake decorations into them for the eyes (I used some gold stars we had left over from a birthday cake project for eyes).Leave your cookies to cool on the baking sheets for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- These notes are important enough that I’ve put them in the recipe too:
- The chilling time between steps will be about 2 hours in the fridge or 45 minutes in the freezer, this will shorten depending on the shape and quantity of dough you’re chilling, as the assembled dough logs get larger, they’ll need more time to chill, as the coloured hunks of dough you’re working with get smaller, they’ll need less time to warm up to a workable consistency.
- As you work through assembly, remember: you’ll want the dough you’re adding to to be firm, and the dough you’re adding to be warmer and more workable. After you finish any construction step, you can walk away if you need to and resume on another day, just tightly wrap the dough in cling film and return it to the fridge.
- Whenever the shape allows it, I wrap the dough in parchment paper before the cling film layer. I don’t know why, I just do.
- Instead of white, you could dye the biggest hunk of dough black or maybe purple – something suitably halloween-y. That does mean at the final step, you’ll just have to work in the leftover bit into the border decoration which should be fine.
- If you have to roll out the final border layer more than once, it’ll go a bit swirly, embrace that and maybe just give the dough a quick twist or knead beforehand.
THIS IS A PROJECT! But, once the dough is all assembled, it feels a bit like magic to make these from scratch instead of buying them in the store (which, I don’t think is an option here in the UK anyways).
I spread the assembly work across several sittings and dipped into it any time I had a little freehand time, like listening to audio books. This is in part why I probably won’t do them this year (she says on October 16th), we just have too much on – in fact, last year we had too much on too but I really wanted to do them, so I made them the week after Halloween.
Actually, as I cast my memory back, this was the project that finally broke our old oven, and since we were on the brink of a remodel of the kitchen (and the flat) anyways, we didn’t bother to replace it. Pretty much immediately after I pulled the last batch out of the oven, the oven burners cashed it in and anything we cooked in the oven between November and Feb 1st when we moved out for the work to start, we had to heat the oven by turning the broiler on and off and monitoring the temperature closely. So yeah, no more cookies fancy or otherwise after these in 2021.
I could fine tune the measurements – get to an exact amount for each colour, I know folks would be happy to eat all the cookies generated in the effort, but my initial guestimate was so close, and I am doing this mostly for my own reference, I’m not getting paid, I love what I do for a living (which isn’t baking) and don’t see food blogging as a future for me, so “close” is good enough for me here.
The quote at the start has absolutely nothing to do with these cookies, though, I guess a mention of a butcher’s meat hook (sable sin remaches) is a bit halloween-y, even if the reference has a bit more to do with the opening scene of Joyce’s Ulysses than a horror movie (but I guess one could argue… let’s just park it there). AAAANNNYHOW The dough for this cookie is from a french style of sugar cookies, called “sables”, for their sandy texture, so that’s a french word, and every time I see it, my head finishes that quote, a phrase from the tango “Cambalache”, which I probably listened to entirely too much in my teens and early twenties, so it’s a bit of a bilingual pun that not many will appreciate.