Long after the trick-or-treaters have gone home and the costumes have been stowed away, leftover Halloween candy haunts the house, tempting parents to steal their children’s hard-earned treats and leading children to frightful sugar rushes.
If those children and parents are honest, they can only eat so much candy before it gets tiresome. This year, rather than holding a candy eating contest or throwing out all those extras, start the holiday cookie season early by baking them into cookies to share with friends and neighbors.
Leftover candy bars, once chopped, are essentially specialty chocolate chips with the added ingredients of caramel, peanut butter or nougat. Doesn’t the idea of an oatmeal/chocolate-malt nougat/caramel/milk chocolate cookie make your mouth water?
Instead of buying all of those ingredients, start with a classic recipe for oatmeal chocolate chip cookies, remove the chocolate chips and add pieces of a Milky Way bar to make Oatmeal Milky Way Cookies. If your surplus doesn’t include Milky Ways, you could replace them with any other similar chocolate bar, including Snickers or Three Musketeers.
Maybe you want to bake something a little more adventurous and spirited. A seasonally appropriate pumpkin cookie gets a peanut butter crunch, and a bit of chocolate, too, from the addition of chopped Butterfinger bars. These cakey, moist Pumpkin Butterfinger Cookies make a great fall party treat or housewarming gift.
Peanut butter arguably goes best with its old friend, chocolate, which is why Reese’s are typically the first to go from the candy bag. One of the less-favored candies, Milk Duds, melts nicely into a peanut butter cookie, with the added bonus of gooey caramel in the center.
Milk Dud Peanut Butter Cookies can also be made ahead of Halloween, their eyeball-like appearance perfect for adding the spooky factor to treats at a Halloween party. And if you have mini Reese’s around, the same effect can be achieved by replacing Milk Duds with those in the recipe.
Other Halloween candies can take on a new role in the dessert world. Kit Kats and Whoppers can be chopped or crumbled and sprinkled over a pan of brownie batter before baking.
In fact, brownies are the ultimate Halloween candy concoction. Just place whatever candies you have in the batter and bake. Some candies, like gummy worms, will melt, but it would be a fun experiment for kids who are learning about science.
More colorful, sugar-based candies like Nerds and Dots might not do well in the oven but could be used to decorate sugar cookies.
Hard sugar candies like Jolly Ranchers won’t bake well, either, but are perfect for dropping in a glass of Sprite. Kids will love watching them melt slowly in the liquid. (This will bring back memories of Jolly Ranchers in Zima for parents of a certain age.)
We’re getting into cookie-giving season, so make some extra plain dough now and freeze it. Grab some Halloween candy when it goes on sale this weekend so you can make a few dozen cookies to give to neighbors, friends, coworkers and classmates, who won’t be able to resist what will become out-of-the-ordinary treats.
Pumpkin Butterfinger Cookies
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup dark brown sugar
1½ tsp. vanilla
½ 15 oz. can pureed pumpkin
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1½ tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 regular or 8 fun-size Butterfinger candy bars, chopped
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
In the large bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed. Add egg, vanilla, and pumpkin, one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
In a medium bowl sift together flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and pumpkin pie spice. Add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing until just combined. Stir in chopped Butterfingers.
Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from oven and cool 2 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to cooling rack and rest for 10 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies.
— Adapted from a White Lights on Wednesday recipe by Melissa Martinez
Oatmeal Milky Way Cookies
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. old-fashioned rolled oats
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
2 regular or 8 fun-size Milky Ways, chopped then frozen
In the large bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed. Add the egg and vanilla, mixing well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing until just combined. Manually stir in oats until the dough comes together. Chill dough for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Stick 2-3 small pieces of frozen Milky Ways into the tops of the cookies. Bake for 10 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown on the edges, and cool 3 minutes on cookie sheet. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and rest for 5 minutes. Makes 1 1/2 dozen cookies.
— Adapted from a Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe by Melissa Martinez
Peanut Butter Milk Dud Cookies
3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup peanut butter
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
2 regular or 6 fun-size boxes of Milk Duds
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In the large bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugars on medium speed. Add eggs, one at a time, vanilla and peanut butter, mixing well after each addition.
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in two additions, scraping down the sides of the bowl and mixing until just combined. Chill dough for 1 hour.
Roll dough into 1 1/2-inch balls. You can either hide one Milk Dud inside each cookie or roll the dough around the Milk Dud for cookies with a visible chocolate center. Place cookies 2 inches apart on cookie sheet. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until cookies are lightly brown on the edges, and cool for 3 minutes on cookie sheet.
Transfer cookies to a cooling rack and rest for 5 minutes. Makes 2 dozen cookies.
— Adapted from a Taste of Home recipe by Melissa Martinez
- Brown the butter: Melt butter over medium heat in a 2-quart saucepan. As butter melts, it begins to foam, froth, crackle and pop. Swirl and watch the pan as the butter becomes fragrant and turns a golden brown color. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the contents of the pan into a small bowl. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Browned butter can seem like a hassle, but it adds a wonderful, nutty flavor note to cookies or anything else you use it for.
- Flour gently: Flour is delicate, and too much or too little can make all the difference. Scooping your measuring cup into the bag and packing down the flour typically results in more flour than the recipe calls for. Instead, gently pour or spoon flour into the measuring cup, leveling off the top with a butter knife.
- Parchment paper: Typically, cookies are baked on nonstick or greased cookie sheets, but most of us know they leave behind tiny bits that burn onto the pans. For the easiest cleanup, line your cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Invest in a cookie scoop: As something of a perfectionist, my favorite kitchen tool is my cookie scoop. It’s less messy for my hands, and it guarantees my cookies will all be the same size.