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By Jackie Burrell
Tuesday, October 27th, 2009 at 1:22 pm in Cuisine, Halloween.

Halloween treats (Photo by Mark DuFrene/Contra Costa Times) We are in such a Halloween-y mood these days, thanks in large part to Julia Usher’s new book, “Cookie Swap: Creative Treats to Share Throughout the Year” (Gibbs Smith, 160 pages, $19.99). Why, the former Bay Area engineer-turned-bakery diva asks, should the winter holidays get all the good cookies? Halloween ought to get its share of gingerbread too in the form of haunted houses, or spice cookie balls formed into tiny vine-festooned pumpkins.

So today we’re sharing her recipe for candy corn cookies – a particularly yummy take on ye olde sugar cookie, flavored with a hint of maple. Come back tomorrow for more as we count down to Halloween!

Makes 1-1½ dozen

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1¼ cups sifted, powdered sugar
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
¾ teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons orange or maple extract
Orange and yellow soft gel food coloring
Egg wash (see below)

1. Stir the flour, baking soda and salt together. Set aside.

2. Cream the butter and sugars together on medium-low speed until light and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the egg, vanilla and other flavorings, and beat until smooth. Gradually add the flour mixture and mix just until incorporated.

3. Divide the dough in half. Combine the first half with roughly a quarter of the second, and tint it bright orange. Divide the remaining dough into two portions, one about three times the size of the other. Tint the larger portion bright yellow. Wrap everything separately in plastic, and chill 1 to 2 hours before shaping.

4. Shape the yellow dough into a 3½ x 4½ inch rectangle that is about ½ to ¾ inch thick. Shape the orange dough into the same rectangular shape, but 1½ to 1¾ inch thick. Lightly brush the top of the yellow rectangle with egg wash — 1 egg beaten with one teaspoon water — and press the orange brick on top.

5. Shape the remaining white dough into a 1 x 4½ inch rectangle, about ½ to ¾ inch thick, and affix it to the top center of the orange dough with egg wash. Wrap in plastic and freeze 1 to 2 hours.

6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough crosswise into multicolored slices, each about 3/16 inch thick. Cut each slice into a candy corn triangle. Blunt the corners with your fingertips. Bake for 7-10 minutes. Transfer to wire racks and let cool.

— Recipe courtesy of Julia Usher, “Cookie Swap” (Gibbs Smith 2009)

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