I have warped a blameless biscuit into a Hallowe’en horror. With apologies to Edvard Munch (apt name) and to Germans, Austrians and Swiss everywhere, I present … my Screaming Skull Cookies.
They are a sort upmarket version of that tuckshop favourite, the jammy dodger. They’re based on Spitzbuben, Teutonic sandwich cookies which translate as ‘rascals’, appropriate enough for Hallow’een tricksters.
Notes: because you’re sandwiching two biscuits together and they have to be identical, you will need a skull cookie cutter unless you have a very steady hand. These are readily available online as they’re often used in Mexican Day of the Dead celebrations.
Allow plenty of time. The soft dough is similar to a Linzer cookie (Nigella’s hazelnut Linzer recipe, one of several I consulted for this, would also work here) and needs to be well chilled, so please read the directions below before starting.
You can make these with kids but because the dough is so soft, the rolling is probably best done by an adult or an older child with a bit of patience.
Screaming Skull Cookies
250g salted butter, softened
250 caster sugar
Zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g plain flour
Raspberry jam or redcurrant jelly (a smooth jam works best)
Icing sugar, to dust
Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract, lemon zest and eggs and stir to mix. Sift in the flour and beat until you have a smooth dough. Split into four portions, flatten into discs, wrap and chill for at least two hours (or make it a day ahead).
Take two discs out of the fridge. If they’ve been chilled for 24 hours or more, give them 10-15 minutes to soften. On a lightly floured board and using a well-floured pin, roll out the dough thinly to about 4 mm and cut out an even number of biscuits.
Using the end of a piping nozzle, cut holes for the eyes and mouth out of half of them. Place on lined baking sheets spaced 2cm apart and chill again for half an hour. Repeat with the remaining two discs of dough. Re-roll any scraps and if it is all getting too soft and sticky to handle, put it back in the fridge for a while.
While the biscuits are chilling, heat the oven to 180C/160 fan/360F/Gas Mark 4. Cook the biscuits, in batches if necessary, for 10-14 minutes or until just tinged with gold on the edges. Turn them at half time and/or swap their shelf position if your oven cooks unevenly. Remove to a cooling rack until completely cold.
Once cold, spread a teaspoon of jam onto each of the base cookies, leaving a small edge to allow for squishing.
Dust the top cookies with icing sugar. You may have a special sifter but I generally spoon the sugar into a tea strainer and tap it over.
Beware! You may find they leave phantoms on your work surface. Added spookiness…
Holding the tops carefully by the edges so they don’t smudge, place them on the jammy bottoms. Press together very gently as they are fragile, although I suppose you can always tell people some of the skulls were fractured.
They will eventually soften once the jam layer is added so if you don’t want to eat them all in one go, keep them in an airtight tin and add the jam and icing sugar just before serving. Happy Hallowe’en!