October 12, 2012

Spider Web Cookies For Halloween

E
very culture has its own customs, traditions and rituals to celebrate/ honour the memories of those who are no more. For someone who is new to them, many of these would seem quaint or even difficult to understand.
I remember when I was still in school and we were in Nigeria, there was a lunch party going on a couple of doors away. People were dressed in their best, and there was a lot of singing and dancing going on. Tables were covered with food, and the beer was flowing with people toasting each other every so often. It was celebration at its best and there was not an unhappy face to be seen. 





Someone came over and invited us to join the fun, and we had to refuse simply because we didn’t eat non-vegetarian food nor drink alcohol. We did inquire what the celebration was all about, and were told that they were celebrating the passing away of their father a few days earlier.
I remember being rather non-plussed at that, coming from a community where family members who pass away are mourned by performing detailed and elaborate funeral rites over a period of two weeks, followed by rituals every month for a whole year.
Later, we came to understand the rationale behind it. The Yorubas (a tribe from Western part of Nigeria) see death not as the end, but a transition from one life to another. They also believe the best way to honour a loved one’s memory is by celebrating the life they had lived on earth, and also the fact that they have left all the hardships of this life which do not exist in the other one.

 


Christendom (mostly Catholics) celebrates All Saints’ Day (or All Hallows) on the 1st of November to commemorate Christian Saints. All Souls’ Day on the 2nd November is the day when souls of departed ancestors are commemorated with prayer.
The eve of All Saints’ Day, the 31st of October is celebrated as Halloween, which is a combination of harvest festival celebrations combined with activities like pumpkin carving, costume wearing, trick-or-treating, and decorations based on imagery of death and the supernatural. There is much argument about the origins of Halloween and that isn’t really of much concern to me.
With the passing of time, many of these customs seem to have lost relevance and have no bearing to the way they are now celebrated. None of this matters much to me and what concerns me is the food part of Halloween. I cannot begin to understand the depiction of the macabre and very realistic gore that I see everywhere like eyeballs, brains, blood and bony fingers with claw-like nails! Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I never grew up with Halloween.



 
I don’t particularly like spiders or ghosts either but there is a cuteness factor tosome of them when they make an appearance as cookies or cupcakes, which I find irresistible. Most of the year I tend to forget all about them, but come fall and Halloween and it is almost impossible to escape them. This year I fell prey to Spider Web Cookies!
A couple of weeks back I was reading something when I came across “Spider Web Cookies” which were not baked but mad in a skillet! Pretty much every recipe on the net that I saw for this cookie was the same. And that they weren’t deep-fried but made more in the manner of pancakes. They looked interesting and perhaps I was pushed to make them because I have been on a baking hiatus for the past 3 weeks ever since my new oven broke down!




They look very delicate but are easy enough to make. Piping them out might take a little time and with practise this becomes easier. These cookies do need your attention so don’t get started on them while multi-tasking is the call of your day.
It’s extremely advisable to have a “squeezy” bottle (the kind you would use to decorate cookies) to press out the batter onto the skillet. Piping bags or Ziploc bags will not really work here as you need to control the amount of batter falling out onto your skillet.
Taste-wise they’re somewhat like Achappam/ Rose Cookies, if you’re familiar with them. They’re crisp and slightly crunchy and disappear very quickly!  

If you would like to know how I made my spiders, here's how. I melted dark chocolate with a little butter and then put it in a piping bag. I piped out a small circle with 4 legs on either side, onto aluminium foil and allowed it to set. Just before that I pressed half a Cadbury Dairy Milk Shot, piped choclate "eyes" on each, and then kept in the freezer to set. After half an hour, peel the "spiders" off the foil and decorate.

Spider Web Cookies For Halloween
(Adapted from Betty Crocker’s recipe)
 
 
 Ingredients:

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 tsp chai masala
1 egg
Powdered sugar for dusting

 

Method: 

Put all the ingredients except the powdered sugar in medium bowl and beat with electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. You can also whisk the batter by hand. Pour batter into a plastic squeeze bottle with narrow opening. You can use a skillet to make these cookies, but I prefer a griddle as the lack of sides makes it easier to lift and turn the cookies with a spatula.
Heat an 8-inch skillet or griddle over medium heat until hot. Grease it lightly. Work as quickly as you can and squeeze the batter out of the bottle using uniform pressure, to form 4 straight lines which intersect at right angles in the middle (like a +).
Squeeze out another four lines in between these, so that you have 8 straight lines equally spaced from each the next all intersecting at the same central point. You should have a 8-lined star shape. Now squeeze out 3 separate sets of thin lines joining them all together to look like a cobweb.
Let it cook for between 30 to 60 seconds till golden brown underneath. Carefully turn the “cobweb” over with a wide spatula and let that side cook till golden brown. Remove the cookie from the skillet and cool on a rack. The cobweb cookie will be soft when you take it off the skillet but it will become crisper as it cools.
Bake the cookies on ungreased cookie sheets at 180C (350F) for about 5 minutes, to make them really crisp and crunchy. Let them cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Store them in an airtight container, separating each layer with parchment paper.
This recipe makes a large batch of one-time serve cookies.
 
 
 
 

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