Halloween is a great goulish time in the classroom. I love it because in the U.S. it is a holiday every child can really rally behind in a fun way. Costumes, candy — who doesn’t love it?
We’re moving into the holiday season, which in cooking becomes code word for sugar, sweet, fat, yum. So of course my students ask, as they do every year, will we be doing something sweet for Halloween? (They’ll ask it again for Thanksgiving. Then again for Christmas. Then again pretty much every week until the school year is over.) Some years I mix it up. We’ll do something sweet for Hannukah then something savory for Christmas (they are really not fond of this mix up). But oh Halloween…
They are of course expecting something sweet. Sticky. Gooey. Scary…. Sweet.
I bring them scary with my Witch Fingers.
The first year I was making these with my students I really scared the little ones. All the kids were decked out in costume as I picked them up and the questions began:
“Ooooh, what are we making?! Something sweet? Cupcakes? Cookies?!”
“I have a special surprise for you all today.”
“YES! Something sweet! What is it?”
“Huh? Oh, that’s like a chicken nugget?”
“No! Not chicken! Witch Fingers! I went upstate over the weekend and captured a bunch of witches. They’re all flying around the classroom now. When we get to the classroom I’ll give you all nets. We have to catch the witches, cut off their fingers and then we’ll bake them.”
And I could see their minds churning. Like: I know witches aren’t real. No, she’s lying. It’s something sweet. And we kept this up the whole way to the classroom. What are we really making? Witch Fingers! No, but really… Witch Fingers!
By the time we reached the classroom some of the students were afraid. “Are there really witches inside?” I mean afraid. Do I really want to open that door afraid? Am I really going to have to capture a witch? Wait, and chop fingers off?!
So I had to give it up. No, there weren’t witches behind these doors. It’s okay, what we’re making will just look like witch fingers. Relief that no witches would need to be captured ended the questions of sugar and the question they really care about was asked: “but they’ll still taste good, right?”
They do taste good. They would be great with a quick dip of pumpkin puree mixed with yogurt and a touch of cinnamon and honey.
We ate them all smiles. We plucked off warts and ingrown rotten nails and a student asks:
“So will I have magical powers from eating these?”
Makes about 16 fingers
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon chopped tarragon or thyme
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
4 tablespoons butter, room temperature
1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons water
pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) or almond slivers
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Mix flour, cornmeal, tarragon, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add butter. Use fingers to smash butter into the dry ingredients. Incorporate the butter evenly into the dry ingredients until the mixture looks like wet sand. Add egg, shredded cheddar cheese and water. Knead the dough in the bowl until it is evenly mixed and forms a ball. The dough should be moist and sticky, but not tacky. Add more flour if necessary if too wet. Add a little more water if too dry.
Working with a golf ball-sized piece of dough, roll and pinch the dough to about the thickness of a finger. Make the finger crooked, a a bit of dough to form a wart, etc. Add knuckle wrinkles using a spoon or knife. Wedge a pepita into one end of the finger creating “nails.” You can add more nails– ingrown nails growing out of the finger or wart are great! Transfer to baking sheet. Continue with remaining dough.
Bake 15-20 minutes until lightly golden.