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Happy Halloweekend!

Confession: although I count Halloween as my probably-favorite holiday, my feelings about the associated food are decidedly “meh.” I’m not a huge candy freak. Sugary stuff makes me jittery, and lots of chocolates “might contain” peanuts. And while I like a good cupcake or cake truffle as much as the next girl, I found myself wanting to do a savory Halloween.

Weird? Perhaps, but also tasty.

Traditional (if there is such a thing when it comes to Halloween) “witches’ fingers” are some kind of shortbread cookie (or, if you’re Martha Stewart, a fearsome yeasted-then-boiled dough to rival bagel-making in its complexity) with the crowning trompe-l’oeil of a blanched almond fingernail.

Sigh. The fingernails are key! And what other foods are fingernail-shaped, even?

I happened to have made pumpkin soup from a real pumpkin the other day (it’s almost as easy as opening a can, I swear!) and roasted the seeds, as you do, and, well, bingo. 

The recipe I’ve cobbled together is kind of a spicy cheese straw/cracker with, ah, curry-roasted pumpkin seeds (I would have flavored them differently, had I thought ahead). Having sampled a few as they came out of the oven, I can say that for once, my baking improvisation was a success.

Novelty food or not, they’re good. And if all goes according to plan, I’ll have another neato spooky recipe to post soon…

Cheesy, Spicy, Nut-Free Witches’ Fingers
makes about two baking sheets’ worth

  • 1 1/2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 4 tbsp. butter, cubed and slightly cold
  • 3/4 cup AP flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (omit if using salted butter, unless you’re a salt fiend)
  • 1 tbsp. milk or half and half
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds 

Preheat oven to 350º.

Pulse cheese, butter, flour, pepper, and salt in a food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add milk and process until mixture forms a cohesive-ish ball. (Alternatively: cut in butter and cheese with pastry blender, knives, or fingers until mixture forms large crumbs, stir in milk with wooden spoon).

Dust countertop with flour and roll out half the dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knive, cut into finger-sized strips. Transfer to parchment or silpat-lined baking sheet. Press seeds into one end of strips (mush the sides up over the seed, as it will puff right off otherwise) and taper into finger-shape. Using a sharp knife, cut three “knuckle” lines in the middle of each finger.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until just golden at the edges. Cool on sheet on a rack.