Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Halloween Buffet Part 2: Witchy Fingers

When I was still living in Michigan, every year my family and I would go to my aunt's Halloween party. Most people brought a dish to pass, and I used to make sugar cookies in the shape of fingers with almond fingernails. They were generally good-tasting, but I came to find that there were a few problems with these treats. 1) Sugar cookie dough spread out too much in the oven, making flat fingers instead of nice, plump, rounded ones; 2) because they were so small, the cookies tended to dry out in the oven; 3) they were yet another sweet to add to the already dessert laden buffet table; and perhaps most importantly 4) party-goers seemed to have an aversion to eating flesh-colored fingers with painted nails, a bit too cannibalistic I guess. I liked the creep factor of the fingers, however, and wanted to come up with a sustitute recipe that would solve my problems but keep the overall effect. I thought about shortbread dough, hypothesizing that it would spread less in the oven, but it was still a sweet; I wanted something savory. I settled on the concept of breadstick/soft pretzel dough; it would become plump in the oven, not flat and it would be a divergence from dessert. I also decided to tint the dough so it wasn't so fleshy. Creepy green witch fingers with bright red nails! The recipe below makes about 3 dozen witch fingers, depending on size.

Witchy Fingers:
1 1/2 c. All-purpose flour (plus another 1/4 c. or so for kneading)
1/2 c. lukewarm water (it should not feel much warmer than your finger when tested)
1 tsp. active dry yeast (or just use half of a small package)
1/4 tsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. oil (I used olive oil)
2 Tbsp. grated parmesan cheese
Sprinkle of garlic powder (optional)
1 Tbsp. melted butter
8 drops green food coloring
36 almond slices (choose ones with a nice rounded shape and no cracks)
Red food coloring

1) Mix sugar with warm water until dissolved and sprinkle yeast over top to proof.
2) Mix salt with flour, and garlic powder if using, in a mixing bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in water/yeast mixture, then add oil and food coloring. With a spoon, mix flour into liquid until moistened. At this point you can add more color if needed, 8 drops should give you a bright, ogreish green. Turn dough onto a floured surface; it will be sticky, so keep the extra few tablespoons of flour on hand to sprinkle over dough as needed, until it reaches the right consistency. It should not stick to your fingers, but should also have no visible white flour on the surface.
3) Knead for 5 minutes, until smooth, then form into a ball. You could use a stand mixer with a dough hook for the mixing and kneading, but for such a small amount I prefer to do it by hand.
4) Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and let rise, covered, about 1 hour
5) While dough is rising, use a small paintbrush to apply red food coloring to the almond slices. I just put several drops of coloring in a small bowl and laid out some plastic wrap to protect my countertop.
6) Preheat oven to 400 degrees and cover two baking sheets in parchment paper or nonstick baking mats. You will probably end up with three baking sheets worth of fingers, so I used two pans (while one was baking, I was shaping fingers on the other one)
7) When the dough has risen, sprinkle the parmesan cheese over the top and give the dough a few quick kneads to incorporate the cheese. Then break off a very small piece (about the size of a plastic bottlecap, like those found on 2 Liter bottles).
8) Roll the dough into a thin rope, creating a bulbous center. Remember that the dough will rise as it bakes, so the dough rope should be quite thin (about the size of a pencil, or maybe just a little thicker)
9) Press an almond "nail" into one end of each finger, and use a paring knife to make three lines across the finger at the middle "joint"
10) Bake the fingers for 6-8 minutes depending on size. They should not really brown at all on the outside, although the color of the fingernails may deepen. When the fingers are finished baking and still hot, brush them lightly with melted butter. Move to a serving platter.

Serve these little breadstick fingers with "bloody" marinara sauce for dipping. This dough could also be used to make other shapes (like snakes). My husband can't seem to get over the fact that they are green (I guess you can't please everyone), so you could always opt for plain, untinted dough. You could also swap your favorite sugar cookie dough for the bread dough when making these fingers, despite my reservations about it (just brush the cookies with an egg wash before baking). One thing I haven't tried, but would like to, is using thin slices of garlic for fingernails rather than almonds, although I'm not sure how the red coloring would take. Use the method to fit your Halloween needs, whatever they may be. Be creative and enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Just the right amount of creepiness for a Halloween buffet. I like the idea of using garlic for the would go well with the marinara sauce.