Spider egg and pickled newt’s eye chocolate chunk cookies

Most likely for her own amusement, my mom told my brother and I numerous falsehoods about all kind of things when we were growing up.

Several of them had to do with food. And aliens.  And big foot.  But, we’ll leave the aliens and big foot for some other post.

Cheetos were rusty nails.  The meat from the stew she made each Halloween came from the graveyard.  And, poppy seeds were spider eggs.

Mostly we knew she was joking.  Mostly.

So, when my friend Ann Mah made the Mokonut’s rye-cranberry chocolate chunk cookies she’d earlier featured in her Insta Stories while at their bakery in Paris, the first place my mind went was spider eggs and pickled newt’s eye (no, I don’t know what newts are, don’t ruin it).

This recipe has been making the rounds in-part thanks to a feature by Dorie Greenspan in the New York Times.  No doubt, they’re this fall’s “it” cookie.

With the unusual addition of poppy seeds (spider eggs) and dried cranberries (pickled newt’s eyes), they are also just the thing to make up for your favorite witches, goblins and storm troupers.

Mokonuts’ Rye-Cranberry Chocolate-Chunk Cookies

as presented by Dorie Greenspan in the New York Times  


  • 1 C plus 1 1/2  TBS (130 grams) medium rye flour
  • ½ C plus 2 TBS (85 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 10 TBS(140 grams or 1 stick + 2 TBS) unsalted butter at cool room temperature
  • ½ C (100 grams) sugar
  • ½ C(100 grams) light brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 C (50 grams) poppy seeds
  • 2/3 C (80 grams) moist, plump dried cranberries
  • 4 ounces (113 grams) bittersweet chocolate, chopped into chunks
  • Flake salt, such as Maldon, for sprinkling


  1. Whisk together the rye flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, sea salt and baking soda; set aside.
  2. Working with a mixer (fitted with the paddle attachment), beat the butter and both sugars together on medium speed for 3 minutes, until blended; scrape thebowl as needed.
  3. Add the egg, and beat 2 minutes more.
  4. Turn off the mixer, add the dry ingredients all at once, then pulse the mixer a few times to begin blending the ingredients. Beat on low speed until the flour almost disappears, and then add the poppy seeds, cranberries and chocolate. Mix only until incorporated. Scrape the bowl to bring the dough together.
  5. Have a baking sheet lined with parchment, foil or plastic wrap nearby. Divide the dough into 15 pieces (TMH note–I used a 7/8 ounce scoop and got about 30 smaller balls), roll each piece into a ball between your palms and place on the baking sheet. Cover, and refrigerate the dough overnight or for up to 3 days. (TMH note–I froze them for three days but they should be fine in the freezer for up to a month)
  6. When you’re ready to bake, center a rack in the oven, and heat it to 425. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Arrange the cookies on the sheet, leaving 2 inches between each cookie (work with half a batch at a time and keep the remaining balls of dough in the refrigerator until needed). Sprinkle each cookie with a little flake salt, crushing it between your fingers as you do.
  7. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, pull the baking sheet from the oven and, using a metal spatula, a pancake turner or the bottom of a glass, tap each cookie lightly. Let the cookies rest on the sheet for 3 minutes, then carefully transfer them to a rack. Repeat with the remaining dough, always using cold dough and a cool baking sheet.
  8. Serve after the cookies have cooled for about 10 minutes, or wait until they reach room temperature.

Sweet and salty

You didn’t think I’d do a month of Halloween treats and forget the caramel did you?  And, this isn’t just any caramel, this is Ina Garten’s fleur de sel caramel.  These little treats are very rich, just slightly chewy and have enough salt that they border on savory (think kettle corn).

While the sugar and water get to boiling, prepare the pan.  Cut the parchment so that it sits neatly along two sides and overhangs on the other two (enough to use the extra parchment to lift the finished caramel out of the pan).

This is a two-pan caramel recipe.  Sugar and water come together in one while heavy cream and butter are warmed in another.

Once the sugar and water reach a pale sunny blond…

In goes the dairy (be prepared for a little angry caramel for a few minutes).

Bring the whole mess up to 248 degrees.

And then into the prepared pan and into the fridge until completely cooled.

Now it’s time to really get to work.  This is a soft caramel and as such, imprints easily.  Like fingerprint easy.  To avoid mucking up the beautiful shiny caramel with my grubby fingers, I put on plastic gloves for this next part.

Tightly roll the caramel to halfway.

Cut into eight pieces.

Srinkle with fleur de sel.

Then repeat with the other half.  I wrapped each little piece in parchment (I cut a couple of 10X14 inch pieces into eight equal-sized parchment rectangles giving me 16 pieces total).  You could also use waxed paper or cellophane.  A few years ago I used this really cute waxed paper from The Container Store.

Over the years I’ve made these on-and-off for the holidays.  Something tells me they’ll making a comeback this year.

If you like this, you might like these

Salted Caramel Squares

Scratch Twix


MJ in the house.

Fleur de Sel Caramels

Ina Garten


  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon fleur de sel, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract


  1. Line the bottom of an 8-inch square baking pan (or loaf pan) with parchment paper, then brush the paper lightly with oil, allowing the paper to drape over 2 sides.
  2.  In a deep saucepan (6 inches diameter by 4 1/2 inches deep) combine the sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to boil until the caramel is a warm golden brown color. Don’t stir – just swirl the pan to mix. Watch carefully, as it will burn quickly at the end!
  3. In the meantime, bring the cream, butter, and 1 teaspoon fleur de sel to a simmer in a small pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat, set aside and keep warm.
  4. When the caramelized sugar is the right color, slowly add the cream mixture to the caramel – it will boil up violently. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon and cook over medium heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture reaches 248 degrees F (firm ball) on a candy thermometer. Very carefully (it’s hot!) pour the caramel into the prepared pan and refrigerate until firm.
  5. When the caramels are cool, use the parchment paper to pry the sheet from the pan onto a cutting board. Starting at 1 end, roll the caramel up tightly until you’ve rolled up half of the sheet. Cut the sheet across and then roll the second half tightly. You will have 2 (1 by 8-inch) logs. Sprinkle both logs lightly with fleur de sel, cut each log in 8 pieces. Cut parchment papers in 6 by 4 1/2-inch squares and wrap each caramel in a paper, twisting the ends. Store in the refrigerator or at room temperature.

It’s alive!

Remember the volcano you made for your second grade science project?  Well, this is sort of like that only you get to eat the post-apocalyptic results.  Today on Miss Wizardmisanthropichostess, we’re making honeycomb.  Well, honeycomb the candy (though, I may have some Queen Bee tendencies).

Honeycomb’s humble beginnings start with sugar, corn syrup, honey and a little water.

Then, you turn up the heat and do a little buzzing dance.

Slowly, the color will turn from nearly clear to pale gold.

In goes the baking soda, and you know what happens next (think exploding volcano).

Before we move forward, we need to move back a little.  In my first attempt at making this confection, I let it get a little too golden before adding the baking soda.  This is what burned honeycomb looks like.  You don’t even want to know what burned honeycomb smells like.  Trust me.  So that you don’t make the same mistake, I’ve made some adjustments to the original recipe and added some instructions on using a thermometer.  If you’d like to forgo the technology, just made sure you watch the sugar lava closely and as soon as it gets to a uniform pale gold, add the soda.

This is what it should look like after the baking soda is mixed in.

Once it cools, the magic happens.   If you’ve ever had the Australian candy Violet Crumble, you know where I’m going with this.  Honeycomb’s frothy texture is simultaneously crunchy and chewy.  Incidentally, the first time I saw Violet Crumble, I read it as Violent Crumble.  So, Violent Crumble stuck.  In my fantasy world, the Violent Femmes’ favorite candy is Violent Crumble.

This honeyed treat is very good on its own. It’s also very sticky…especially if there is any humidity in the air.  The solution?  Cover it in chocolate (because, isn’t the solution to many of life’s problems the addition of chocolate?).

Baking is a world of uniformity.  Uniform shapes, precise measurements, attempts at symmetry.  I think this is why I love the decidedly un-uniform (does that make it “iform”) shapes the honeycomb makes.

Once the chocolate has set, these will keep in a cool place for a month or so.

Totally fun to make.  Even more fun to eat.

Since it happens to be October, and since October happens to be the month of Halloween, I thought I’d go with a candy theme for the first three weeks.  I realize that attempting to hand out homemade candy to trick-or-treaters would probably end in incarceration for most of us–so let it be known I’m not suggesting using any of these recipes on trick-or-treaters.  But…I bet you can think of a few ghosts and goblins who might enjoy some treats form your cauldron.

If you like this, you might like these

Toffee (insert your favorite nut)


The Cure.  You thought I was going to say the Violent Femmes didn’t you?

Honeycomb Candy

Adapted from Gail Gand, Foodnetwork.com


  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1/3 cup corn syrup
  • 4 teaspoons baking soda, sifted
  • 12 ounces chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1 TBS shortening


  1. In a large saucepan, gently combine the sugar and water then add the honey and corn syrup.
  2. Boil until lightly gold colored and the sugar looks like light caramel (if using a candy thermometer, heat to 300 degrees).
  3. Add the baking soda and with a wooden spoon, stir in gently. It will foam up a lot.
  4. Pour the mixture onto a silpat or a piece of parchment paper on a sheet pan, and let cool. Break into pieces.
  5. Over a double boiler (or using a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water), add chocolate chips and shortening. Using a rubber spatula, fold gently until chocolate is melted and smooth.
  6. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  7. One-at-a-time, drop honeycomb pieces into melted chocolate.  Using the back of a fork, quickly pull the candy out of the chocolate, let extra chocolate drip back into the pan.  Using a second fork, gently slide candy off of first fork and on to a parchment-lined sheet pan.
  8. Let set.  Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place.



It would be evil to eat these….without a little vino

I don’t know about you, but I like having a little trick with my treat.  And this, is a good one.

You know that orange spice up there?  Guess what it is.

Okay fine.  Let’s back up.  You can tell what is in the next photo right?

That’s right, chocolate.  And, from the this photo, I bet you can guess where we are going (any references to the movie the Sandbox will be completely ignored.  This isn’t that kind of trick).

Returning to the orange stuff.  Have you guessed what it is yet?  Give up? It’s cayenne pepper. Yes.  With chocolate.  And, it makes another appearance below with sugar and a pinch of fleur de sel.  Before refrigerating or freezing, the log of dough above gets a nice roll in this stuff.

Followed by a nice wrap.  Here, I’ve split a paper towel tube down the middle, wrapped the dough in parchment and then placed it in its little dough cozy to help keep its shape.  Yes, I realize this is something your grandmother might do.  It is surprisingly effective.  If you can remember to save the paper towel tubes that is.

You want to give the dough at least a couple of hours in the fridge.  Like most “icebox” cookies, this dough will save nicely in the freezer for a couple of months.  When ready to use, cut 1/4 disks with a sharp knife.

Then, bake.

Remember the trick?  Well.  The cayenne sort of grows on you as the cookie is nibbled.  You won’t notice it at first.  However, slowly the heat will develop until you decide it’s a really good idea to chase it with a sip of a nice, light red wine.  Trick-or treat indeed!


Colin Hay.  Without his working men.

Chocolate Cayenne Cocktail Cookies

adapted from Food and Wine, November 2011

the original calls for neither the spicy sugar roll or mini chocolate chips, revert at your own risk


  • 1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder (TMH note:use Valhrona.  Trust me)
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp + 1/8 tsp fleur de sel, finely ground
  • 1/2 lb butter
  • 1/2 C confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 TBS granulated sugar + more for rolling
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 C mini chocolate chips


  1. Sift flour, cocoa, first 1/2 tsp cayenne and first 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl, whisk to combine.
  2. In a standing mixer fitted with a paddle, beat butter with both sugars at low speed until creamy.  Add in the egg yolk and beat until smooth.  Reduce speed to low and add-in flour mixture.  Mix until just incorporated.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead gently until it comes together.  Then, gently roll dough into a log (mine was about 1 1/2 inch diameter and 15 inches long).  I find that roughly forming a log and then gently rolling it back and forth along a sheet of parchment works well.  In a small bowl pour sugar for rolling.  Start by adding 1/8 tsp fleur de sel and 1/8 tsp cayenne.  Mix into the sugar and taste.  Adjust spice as needed. Sprinkle parchment with sugar mixture and roll the dough log over and gently press the sugar into the log all the way around.  Roll in parchment and cool in fridge at least 2 hours.  If you are planning to freeze the dough, wrap securely in plastic wrap and then a freezer bag and freeze on an even, flat surface.
  4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Using a sharp knife, cut log into disks 1/4 inch thick.  Arrange on cookie sheets (you should get about 24).
  5. Bake the cookies for about 15 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through.  Cookies are ready when they appear just firm.  Let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for at least 3 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

What’s orange and brown and oh so in the season?

This cake!

Things start to get a little frenetic around this time of year what with the big holiday season approaching.  So, here’s what were going to do:  two-a-weeks from here through the end of 2011.  We’ve got a lot to cover.  So, sit-up, pay attention and let’s do this.

I love Halloween.  Well, I love fall in general, but especially Halloween.  It’s fun, there are costumes, it’s a little scary.  I like a little scary.  Of course, there are lots and lots of treats. And this one is probably more for the grown-ups than the kiddos.

This recipe starts with zest. Lots of it: 1/4 of a cup (that’s about four large ones).

This is a pound-cake recipe. This isn’t some springy-light garden party recipe (though it would be great at a garden party, Andy Bernard).  This is a hearty, stick to your ribs, get ready for the cold cake.

And here comes the surprise…chocolate.  Chocolate and orange together are intensely and gorgeously delicious.

Orange, orange cake and chocolate chunks.  Are you picking-up what I am putting down?

And, if the zest of many oranges isn’t orange enough, the still warm cake gets a nice soaking of orange syrup.

While we are talking about topping things, make room for some chocolate ganache.  Because really, there is always room for chocolate ganache.

Of course, skip the food coloring and this bundt  is no less addictive.


Al Green.  The Kitchen Gods requested it.

Barefoot Contessa Orange Chocolate

Chunk Cake

from Ina Garten


  • 1/2 pound (16 TBS) unsalted butter at room temp.
  • 2 C sugar
  • 4 extra-large eggs at room temp.
  • 1/4 C grated orange zest (4 large oranges)
  • 3 C plus 2 TBS all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp kosher salte
  • 1/4 C freshly squeezed orange juice
  • 3/4 C buttermilk at room temp.
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C good semi-sweet chocolate chunks
  • Orange food coloring (optional)

for the syrup

  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1/4 C orange juice

for the ganache

  • 8 ounces good semi-sweet chocolate
  • 1/2 C heavy cream


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease and flour a 10-inch bundt pan.

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl or standing mixer (with a paddle attachment) for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one-at-a-time, then the orange zest and food coloring if desired.

Sift together 3 cups flour, the baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In another bowl, combine the orange juice, buttermilk and vanilla.  Add the flour and buttermilk mixtures alternately in thirds to the creamed butter, beginning and ending with the flour.  Toss the chocolate chunks w/ 2 TBS flour and add to the batter.  Pour into the pan, smooth the top and bake for 45 minutes to an hour, until a cake tester comes out clean.  Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the syrup.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, cook the sugar with the orange juice until the sugar dissolves.  Remove the cake from the pan, set it on a rack over a tray, and spoon the orange syrup over the cake.  Allow the cake to cool completely.

For the ganache, melt the chocolate and heavy cream in the top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally.  Drizzle over the top of the cake.

Spritz con Aperol for the Adult Trick or Treater

This Halloween, I will be enjoying an Orange Stinger Martini from my creative and quite devilish  friend Alison of  A Girl A Market A Martini.  Oops…I mean, A Girl A Market A Meal.  Her cocktail got my thinking about my (other) favorite orange cocktail.  The Spritz con Aperol.

It started in the spring of 2008 when my husband and I slipped off of the North American continent and disappeared into the wilds of Italy.

Oh Italy. My brother from another mother.

We saw them first in Bolzano I think.  Nearly neon orange and served over ice in large wine glasses with  fruit garnish.  It took quite a bit of gesturing and  an immense amount of effort in my own, horrible Fodor’s Italian but we soon learned the cocktail was called a Spritz con Aperol.  My understanding is that the original Spritz, made famous in Venice, was made with Campari.  I think this explains the “con” part when asking for it made with Aperol.

Aperol, like Campari is a low-alcohol liqueur.  As the color suggests, it tastes of oranges but also has the bitterness of the zest and an array of herbs.   This former cocktail waitress had never seen it until visiting Italy.  In fact, I was hard-pressed to find it once we returned to the states and originally had to order it online.  Lucky for us,  the tasty orange apertif has gained quite a bit of momentum in the last couple of years and can now be found in gourmet grocery stores and my own favorite big box store: Beverages and More.  In fact, this month, Esquire uses it as the main ingredient in its New Esquire Cocktail.  As if!

The spritz part of the cocktail comes from Prosecco.  Sure, you could use champagne or even sparkling wine but you would be taking a little of the Italian out of the whole experience.  The cocktail is light and refreshing and perfect for the summer–as well demonstrated in it’s most recent marketing campaign.

The lightness and icy cold part may not be appropriate for Halloween anyplace east of Arizona.  But, here in warm, dry California, a Spritz con Aperol could hold its own as a pre-trick or treating libation. Or, if you happen to be The Misanthropic Hostess, it simply reminds you of a late afternoon on the Western Italian coast when all there was to do was watch the sun slowly descend into the Ligurian Sea.

Or, perhaps Venice.

Or Verona

Or Bolzano.

Spritz con Aperol

  • 3 oz Aperol
  • 2 oz Prosecco
  • Fruit for garnish if desired.

To a large stemware glass filled with ice add Aperol.  Fill remaining glass with Prosecco.  Garnish.