Put that extra Halloween candy to work in cookies

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.

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