Blog Dairy Free Halloween Cookies
In addition to being the official day for dressing in crazy costumes, gobbling candy, carving pumpkins, and dancing to "Monster Mash," Halloween is the unofficial start of holiday cookie decorating season. Now's the time to get out those ghost, cat, bat, and pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters, find the orange and black food coloring, sprinkles, nonpareils, or sparkling sugar (or better yet, all of the above) and let your creativity flow.
Halloween parties and decorated cookies are a natural pairing. A plate or basket of iced cookies makes a nice centerpiece for a Halloween party snack table. If you like, provide clear cellophane bags and ties so guests can bring a cookie home as a party favor. For kids' parties, it's a good idea to include some quieter crafts that children can do side by side along with the more boisterous games that they play together. Make cookies part of the festivities by setting up a cookie decorating corner.
When you want everyone to be able to join in the fun, sometimes that means accommodating food allergies, and two of the most common allergens for kids are eggs and dairy. With that in mind, I created a couple of cookie recipes—one vanilla and one chocolate—that don't use butter or eggs. These cookies are suitable for vegans as well, and incidentally, the lack of eggs means that the dough is safe to nibble. I replaced the butter with dairy-free margarine, and instead of eggs I used a product called Ener-G Egg Replacer. This is a dry powder that comes in a 1-pound box; you can find it in the baking aisle or in the special diets section of most well-stocked supermarkets. It costs about six dollars, which might seem like a big investment for cookies, but it keeps indefinitely. Better yet, you can use it to make royal icing, which dries hard and is used for decorating Christmas cookies and gluing together gingerbread houses. The standard recipe for royal icing includes raw egg whites; meringue powder is sold as a safer-to-eat substitute, but happily this egg-free powder works just as well.
If you've never decorated cookies with royal icing, please give it a try. Royal icing is easy to make and easy to work with, once you get a feel for how thick it needs to be. Piping a border of thick icing and then filling in with thinner icing creates nice clean edges and allows you to neatly decorate a cookie using more than one color. And the resulting cookie is much more durable than one iced with soft frosting—perfect for ornaments.
You can read a good description of royal icing as well as tips for using it here. As for coloring, here are some of my own observations:
Food coloring paste, sold in small jars, gives you a wider range of color shades and intensities than liquid coloring does. It comes in dozens of colors, but to start with, you can stick to the basics and blend your own. If you're an avid cake and cookie decorator, it's nice to have orange, green, and purple in addition to red, yellow, and blue—and of course you need black.
A little paste color goes a long way. Dip the tip of a butter knife in the paste and then touch it to the surface of the icing before stirring it in; set the knife aside and retouch to add more color. Keep in mind that as the icing sits, the color will become more intense (for some reason, this seems to happen with yellow in particular).
You can blend colors either by using different pastes in the same icing or by combining two different tinted icings. To tone down the orange for my pumpkins, for example, I added a tiny amount of black icing.
Even if you don't intend to use white icing on your cookies, don't color the whole batch of icing; set aside a little plain white in case some of your colors turn out a bit too bright for your liking.
In the weeks to come, I'll include more cookie decorating tips. In the meantime, I'd love to see your Halloween cookie creations—you can post photos on this site. Happy haunting!