Nothing tricky about making delicious treats


ABOUT THIS FEATURE

New cookbooks flood the market every week. This feature will help you make sense of what’s new and what’s worth trying out. Email your questions and ideas to connie.post@coxinc.com

Halloween’s become a monster of a holiday.

The National Retail Federation expects Americans to shell out $8.4 billion this year, compared to last year when we spent a mere $6.9 billion on decorations, soirees and entertainment, and elaborate costumes for both people and pets.

When I was a kid, most people still made their own costumes, put a few jack-o-lanterns on the porch, and called it a day. For trick-or-treating, Mom dressed me as a clown, hobo or ghost, then my dad took me to the houses of people my parents knew very well.

Back in 1964, a Long Island, N.Y., woman named Helen Pfeil, had horrified the nation when she handed out little packages of ant poison buttons, dog biscuits and steel wool to teens she thought were too old for trick-or-treating. Pfeil said it was a joke, but was arrested and sent for a mental evaluation, charged and ended up pleading guilty to child endangering. No one was physically harmed as a consequence of her bizarre actions, and she received a suspended sentence. Even so, the thought of candy poisoning spooked many a parent.

After my parents declared the wrappers safe, I was free to chow down on my sugary loot, and I especially enjoyed the new “fun size” Snickers and Milky Way bars. But the very best part of Halloween was in the few days before, in the kitchen where Mom made treats that would last our family at least a full week into November.

When I thumbed through “The Southern Cookie Book” earlier this year, I felt like I was reliving part of my childhood. I’ve been looking forward to sharing the accompanying recipes with you. They are very similar to some of the homemade goodies my family enjoyed around Halloween.

SWEET & SALTY POPCORN SNACK MIX

Makes about 17 ½ cups

15 cups popped popcorn (about ¾ cups kernels)

Vegetable cooking spray

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

½ cup butter

½ cup dark corn syrup

¼ teaspoon kosher salt

1 cup lightly salted dry-roasted peanuts

Wax paper

1 (10.5-ounce) package candy-coated peanut butter pieces

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread popcorn in an even layer on a lightly greased (with cooking spray) heavy-duty aluminum foil-lined 13- by-18-inch pan.

2. Combine brown sugar and next 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-low heat; simmer, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Pour over popcorn, and stir gently to coat.

3. Bake at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Add peanuts during last 5 minutes. Remove from oven, and spread on lightly greased (with cooking spray) wax paper. Cool completely (about 20 minutes). Break apart large pieces, and stir in candy pieces. Store in an airtight container up to 1 week.

Our assessment: The trick to light and extra-crunchy candy popcorn is baking it in the oven. Be sure to take the time to stir it every 5 minutes. Also, I revved it up by using M&M’s Almond Chocolate candies rather than peanut butter pieces.

BUTTERSCOTCH DROPS

Makes 2 ½ dozen

1 (6-ounce) package butterscotch morsels

1 cup dry-roasted peanuts*

1 cup shoestring potato sticks, broken into pieces

Wax paper

1. Melt morsels in a saucepan over low heat. Stir in peanuts and potato sticks.

2. Drop mixture by teaspoonfuls onto wax paper, and cool completely (about 20 minutes).

1 (6-ounce) package peanut butter morsels may be substituted for butterscotch morsels.

Our assessment: These drop cookies are a snap to make. When I was a kid, my mom used broken pretzels or crunchy Chow Mein noodles instead of potato sticks. I think I prefer the potato sticks — and if you don’t like butterscotch or peanut butter, use chocolate morsels instead.

From the book: “The Southern Cookie Book” by the Editors of Southern Living; 288 pages, $22.95. Published by Oxmoor, 2016.

What you get: This collection includes drop, filled and rolled cookies; bars and brownies; confections; and nifty tips for new bakers.

In her own words: “No matter where you live, or whether you are a seasoned baker or a cookie rookie, you will appreciate the tried-and-tested tips and techniques for baking success brought to you by the South’s most trusted kitchen at Southern Living.” — Katherine Cobbs, senior editor

NEXT WEEK: Candy Bar Cupcakes



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Food & Dining

When it comes to eating well, what should you splurge (and save) on?
When it comes to eating well, what should you splurge (and save) on?

When I was 3 years old I never went anywhere without a purse. Sometimes it was stuffed with toys, sometimes it was empty, but it was always in my hand. My dad called me the bag lady. One thing was certain: I was a girly-girl through and through. Now I’m in my 30s and nothing has changed -- makeup, clothes, purses are my thing. If you want to...
Fall classics
Fall classics

It was on a damp, chilly autumn afternoon just outside Beaune, in the heart of France's Burgundy region, that I came to the realization that wines are seasonal. I stood in the doorway of a humble country restaurant with a wood-burning stove that served a dual purpose, in that it also warmed the dining room. The day's special was braised rabbit with...
'Fish missionary' who changed what we eat, one Alaskan salmon at a time
'Fish missionary' who changed what we eat, one Alaskan salmon at a time

Almost everyone who loves good food owes a debt to Jon Rowley, whether they know it or not. The interest has accrued over the past 40 years from the gleamingly fresh fish we eat at restaurants or buy in supermarkets, from just-shucked oysters and the simplicity of a foraged salmonberry, from Rowley's insistence that even good foods had to be coaxed...
Five places to go in Athens
Five places to go in Athens

Travelers looking for a sense of where locals in Athens hang out should head to Kifissia, a leafy, upscale suburb north of the city center. While homegrown stores have long been a trademark here, eateries have been scarce. In recent years, that’s changed as it’s become easier to obtain restaurant licenses. Now, the neighborhood includes...
Extend the life of cheese without reinventing the wheel, other questions
Extend the life of cheese without reinventing the wheel, other questions

Food writer Jason Wilson recently joined The Washington Post Food staff to answer questions about all things edible. The following are edited excerpts. Recipes whose names are capitalized can be found in the Recipe Finder at washingtonpost.com/recipes. Q: I am a hard-core cheese collector. Problem is, when I eat it I try to stick to one-ounce servings...
More Stories