Kari's top five Halloween treat recipes

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Add the sugars, spice, and vanilla seeds, if using, and whip again until fully blended.

Sift the flour, cornstarch, and salt together, then add to the butter mixture in 3 batches, carefully and on low speed, until the ingredients are fully blended and form coarse crumbs that stick together if you press them.

Roll dough into balls and flatten them on a cookie sheet, or roll them out and cut out shapes, or press it with fingers into a parchment-lined pan.
If baking the entire recipe, pressed into a pan, go for 20 to 30 minutes of oven time, depending on your oven and the size of the shortbread. Rotate the pan halfway through baking. VERY IMPORTANT: Let the shortbread cool before lifting it out!

If you choose to make or cut-outs, cut enough parchment paper to cover the pan twice, pile on a heap of the crumbly dough on one of the sheets, layer another sheet on top, and roll it out to just under 1 cm thickness. If the dough is giving you trouble and won't stick together to form a sheet, throw it back in the bowl and carefully knead it until it's pretty workable, then shove it back between the paper and flatten it. Some shortbread aficionados must be shaking their heads, but I have made many batches of bloody good cookies like this. Do what you have to!

It's easier to cut shapes and lift away excess if the sheet of dough has been chilled in the freezer for 10 minutes. Scraps can be added back into the rest and rolled out later for the next batch, or pressed into another pan.

Bake about 12 minutes for small cookies, depending on your oven, until edges start to brown slightly.  Rotate the pan halfway through baking.



Mini caramel apples and pears

Every Autumn, I walk past beautiful chocolatier shops with caramel apples lining their windows, and fight the temptation to buy one. To me, candy apples are like the lemon chicken of the candy-on-a-stick world: A good idea at first, until you're a few bites in, then your face hurts because it's too sweet and you don't know what to do with the rest! As an added bonus, you look funny walking around with a half-eaten apple on a stick until you decide to throw it away.

This recipe is a bite-sized version of the real deal, to satisfy the initial craving, and allow you to have as many or as few pieces as you want. Use any variety of apple that you like, sweet or sour, or to make things even more fun use a few chunks of pear, too. It's a good idea to dip the fruit in lemon juice beforehand, as the caramel might only stick to the peels and you don't want the flesh to look brown.

Decorate as you like, with melted chocolate, crushed nuts or candy, sprinkles, or cookie bits.

Makes 15 to 20 pieces
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 6 minutes

Ingredients:
1 1/2 apples or pears, cut into inch-sized chunks (about 15 to 20)
Enough popsicle sticks, toothpicks, or wooden skewers for the fruit
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp butter
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/8 cup honey
4 tbsp sweetened condensed milk
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Toppings for fruit such as marshmallows, if using


Push 1 stick/pick/skewer into each piece of fruit, all the way through, dip fruit in lemon juice, pat dry, and set aside. Butter a piece of parchment paper.

Combine the butter, sugar, honey, and condensed milk in a heavy saucepan, and stir over medium heat. The colour should be a slightly cloudy and milky peanut butter tone. Bring it to a gentle boil, continuing to stir, until it bubbles all over and the colour changes to a glossy, bright caramel colour. Stir the caramel thoroughly and scrape the bottom of the pan, making sure to control the heat to make sure not to burn it.

When you notice that scrapings from the bottom are colouring slightly auburn but easily incorporate back into the bubbling caramel, after about 4 minutes of boiling, tilt the pan to one side, scrape the caramel towards it, and dip a test chunk of fruit. Make sure to coat the top and sides, and set it on the parchment.

Turn off the heat for a moment and wait for the caramel to firm up. It should be pliable and slightly chewy. If you're happy with it, return the pan to the heat, quickly stir in the vanilla, allow it to bubble for another 20 seconds or so, and dip the rest of the fruit. If you want a hard caramel, heat it for a bit longer until the colour turns darker, almost like chocolate, and test again.

Immediately coat the fruit in whatever toppings you like, or drizzle the fruit with melted chocolate, and let the toppings stick to that instead. Let set at room temperature or in the fridge.
Happy Halloween everybody!

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