Why It Works
- Keeping the dough chilled helps maintain its shape and integrity, making it possible to fill the cookies with jam.
- The jam gives the fingers a bleeding effect when you bite in, while also making them more flavorful.
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.
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.
Once divided, I roll out the dough into thin, 1/4-inch sheets and promptly refrigerate them on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheets until they're firm and cool. Removing only one baking sheet at a time, I slice the dough into long, 1-inch strips, which will each eventually yield two cookies.
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.
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. 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.
I pinch one end shut and dab it with jam before pressing an almond sliver on to form a "nail."
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:
Doesn't that look so fingery?
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 crumbly, buttery, jammy, golden-brown severed digits.
Oh, and here's what you get when you take a bite!
- 1 recipe classic butter shortbread cookie dough, uncooked (through step 1)
- 6 tablespoons raspberry jam
- 24 sliced almonds
Divide dough into 2 equal balls. On a piece of parchment paper, roll each portion out until 1/4-inch thick, keeping a roughly rectangular shape. Place dough and parchment paper on rimmed baking sheets, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
Remove one portion of dough from refrigerator. Slice dough into 1-inch thick strips and lift sides to form a trough along the length of the strip.
Working quickly, take a heaping teaspoon of jam and spread it along the length of the dough and carefully pinch dough closed to form a long, thin cylinder roughly 10 - 12 inches long. Repeat for remaining strips. Make sure the tube is completely sealed along the seam. If dough begins to feel soft and mushy, return the baking sheet to the fridge for 20 minutes before resuming.
Slice the tubes in half. Pinch one end shut, dab it with jam, and press on an almond sliver "nail." Squeeze the sides to create a bulged "knuckle" area and, using the dull edge of your knife or a spoon, press into both the knuckle and the area below the nail several times to create a wrinkled appearance. Add a spoonful of jam over the base of each finger and return the baking sheet to the refrigerator for at least 20 minutes.
Adjust oven racks to upper and lower-middle positions and preheat oven to 300°F (150°C). Repeat steps 2 through 4 with remaining baking sheet of rolled-out dough. Bake both baking sheets until the cookies are lightly golden-brown, rotating top to bottom and back to front halfway through cooking, 15 - 20 minutes total. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving.
It's important to keep the dough cold throughout the process. When it starts to feel soft, you can pop it back in the fridge and work on the other batch.