It's here it's here! The night's are drawing in, I've not quite got out my big coat but I still feel as if time is running away with me - it must be Hallowe'en! The spookiest night of the year and one that I have always baked for every year without fail. When I was younger, the best parts were the Hallowe'en parties where a huge variety of freakish food and games kept us entertained, rather then walking round in the cold and dark to knock on stranger's doors in the village!
I recently found out however that the trick or treating tradition did not come from our American counterparts, as I had wrongly always assumed, but indeed from further in the Pagan and then Christian roots that Hallowe'en prides itself in. It was once a form of begging for 'soul cakes' where the poor would visit the rich's houses and beg for these cakes in return for prayers on all the souls that lived at that address. This was done on Hallow's Eve from the Medieval period all the way up to the 1930's. Originally practiced on both Hallowe'en and Christmas, it soon turned into a request for food or coins and paired with the fun of dressing ghoulish became a firm favourite for Hallowe'en both here and in the States.
I was also interested to learn that our beloved carved pumpkins were in fact originally carved turnips! Emigrates to the US soon learned that pumpkins and squashes of all kinds were far easier to carve and so took their knives to those instead. Some of the original imagery of carved turnips are even more terrifying than the big friendly orange faces we're used to today; definitely something to do with turnip's wonderfully craggy skin and deep colour range from purple to milky white.
But enough of history! Back to baking... I've always had a pumpkin cookie cutter (lord knows why) and so have always found myself baking treats for trick or treater's as opposed to heading out and buying a mixed fun-size bag of mars bars [side note: whoever named them 'fun size' was obviously having a complete laugh...]. This year, I decided to branch out from the usual glace icing covering and work with royal icing as we've been doing so much detail piping at the bakery recently it seemed a good way of continuing with classic 'baker's piping hand cramp'! I love making a complete spread of a variety of bakes and so changed the design for a few and added some fondant pumpkins for a bit of texture.
Flying Tiger, as usual, came up trumps for my little spiders and ghosts and I couldn't not make reference to Harry Potter's most famed evening could I? Hence the little RIP, Lily & James Potter mini-pumpkins too... Another famous Hallowe'en Party is of course the one in 'Mean Girls' so I couldn't forget that either! Karen's 'K' diamante applique being one of my favourite moments of that film as well as the now legendary line, 'I'm a mouse, duh!'...
I used my classic shortbread recipe as I do for most decorated biscuits. It's so easy to do and has such a delicious flavour it can really work well on its own without much icing or it pairs well having a little more sweetness added to it with fondant or royal icing as I made here. My royal icing recipe is the most simple part of this whole thing - no weighing needed! I simply take as much icing sugar as I think I'll need and then add egg whites until I get the correct consistency. You're looking for a relatively thick icing to pipe outlines and words with and then you can always add another egg white or just a drop of water to let it down for filling in or 'flooding' as its properly called. I'll do a little icing tutorial post soon so you can see some videos of the correct consistency for different ones as well as how to get the lightest, fluffiest buttercream icing ever!