How to Make Halloween Witch Finger Cookies That Actually Bleed

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[Photographs: Vicky Wasik]

Halloween is, without doubt, my favorite holiday of the year. I plan for it months in advance. My decorations go up in early October and don't come down until well into January (okay, maybe March). And as for the day itself? It's all about the costumes—even for my food.

Last week, I tried my hand at vampire mouth sandwich cookies, which make for a fun, goofy presentation. But sometimes a girl just wants her cookies to be a little more, well, dead and bloody.

What if I told you your witch finger cookies—yes, the ones that are scattered all over Pinterest and cooking blogs internet-wide—could crush the competition? What if I told you your witch finger cookies could look grotesque and still taste great? What if I told you your witch finger cookies could BLEED?

Presenting buttery shortbread cookies, filled with a tart-sweet raspberry jam. Not only does the jam give the fingers a bleeding effect when you bite in, but they come out a lot more moist and flavorful, to boot.

The process is simpler than it looks at first glance, especially once you get the hang of it. It starts off with a quick and easy shortbread dough—salty, sweet, and delectably buttery.

When the dough's ready, I split it into two batches. The real key to working with this dough is keeping it nice and cold, so any time it starts to feel soft or mushy, you can pop it back in the fridge and work with the other batch for a bit. Unless you want to bake bloody puddles, of course. In which case, you should probably stop reading this post.

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Once divided, I roll out the dough into thin, 1/4-inch sheets and promptly refrigerate them on parchment paper-lined sheet pans until they're firm and cool. Removing only one tray at a time, I slice the dough into long, 1-inch strips, which will each eventually yield two cookies.

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Then, I bend up the sides—this is where our jam will go, and it's a lot easier to control when you've made a trough for it. Tempting as it may be to stuff the cookies with a whole lot of jam, I'd stick to around one heaping teaspoon for each strip. Otherwise, the jam actually creates leaky cracks in the surface of the dough when it heats up in the oven.

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Next, it's time to pinch the strip closed, forming a long tube. I give it a couple of gentle rolls to make sure it's nice and cylindrical. It should look something like this:

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Cut each rolled cylinder in two—they should now be about as long as a real finger, but quite a bit skinnier. They'll spread a fair amount in the oven.

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I pinch one end shut and dab it with jam before pressing an almond sliver on to form a "nail."

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Then, I squeeze the sides to create a bulged "knuckle" at the center of the cookie. And then comes the transformative moment: using the dull edge of a knife (or even just a spoon), I press wrinkle lines into the joint areas, like so:

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Doesn't that look so fingery?

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Once your cookies are all lined up, chilled one last time, and ready to go, it's just a quick 15-20 minute bake between you and your to crumbly, buttery, jammy, golden-brown severed digits.

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Oh, and here's what you get when you take a bite!

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