Quirky Halloween ghosts tickle me, especially if they are piped out with Seven-Minute Frosting and adorned with googly eyes.
But when it comes to Halloween history, in early days, folks weren’t focusing on goblins made with marshmallow-like frosting. No, those ghosts where taken more seriously and were the focus of a Samhain, an ancient Celtic festival in which revelers lit bonfires and wore costumes to ward off spirits. Pope Gregory III designated November 1 as a time to honor all saints; soon after, All Saints Day incorporated some of the traditions of Samhain. The evening before was known as All Hallows Eve, and later Halloween.
To my way of thinking, Halloween is a great excuse to crank up the oven and do so some holiday baking. Bring on the whimsical ghosts and candy corn. We need something fun and humorous this year – something chocolate-y, or laden with peanut butter, or adorned with candy eyeballs!
These luscious (and I think adorable) tartlets take some time and special equipment to prepare. You will need an electric stand mixer and a candy thermometer to make the Seven-Minute Frosting, the white fluffy frosting that is used to make the Halloween ghosts, plus eight (2 1/2-inch wide) tart pans with removeable bottoms. You will also need a couple of hours at home because the first two steps require cooling time. Maybe consider making the tartlets one day in advance without the ghosts and leave them at room temp. Classic ganache can stay at room temperature for 1 day, kept in a cool place. Make the frosting the next day and pipe out the ghosts; serve within 8 hours. Note that making the frosting requires doing two procedures at once – get the sugar-water mixture going on the stove armed with a candy thermometer and start the egg whites mixing in the electric stand mixer.
CHOCOLATE GANACHE GHOST TARTLETS
Yield: 8 tartlets, plus leftover frosting
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped into small pieces
3/4 cup granulated sugar, plus 2 tablespoons, divided use
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
4 tablespoons water
3 large egg whites, room temperature
Garnish: sugar candy eyes, 2 for each ghost, see cook’s notes
Equipment: stand electric mixer, pastry bag fitted with 1/4-inch plain tip, 8 (2 1/2-inch wide) tart pans with removeable bottoms, candy thermometer
Cook’s notes: Candy “eyeballs” are sold at some supermarkets in the cake decorating section, or at craft stores such as Michael’s. If they sell two sizes, get a pack of each, one small and one larger.
1. Make Crust: Adjust oven rack to middle position. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter. In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs with melted butter and sugar; stir to combine. Press into 8 (2 1/2-inch) mini tarts pans, making sides and bottom about 1/4-inch thick (use about 3 heaping measuring tablespoons per tart pan). Place on rimmed baking sheet and bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until edges lightly browned. Cool.
2. Make Chocolate Ganache: In a small saucepan, bring cream over medium-low heat to a simmer. Remove from heat; add chocolate and whisk well until chocolate melts and mixture is smooth. Spoon into cooled crusts. Cool.
3. Make Seven-Minute Frosting: Place egg whites in large bowl of electric stand mixer; attach the whisk attachment. Set aside. In a small, heavy-bottom saucepan, combine 3/4 cup sugar, corn syrup, and 4 tablespoons water. Place over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until sugar dissolves, about 4 minutes. (Meanwhile, in bowl of the mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. Keep an eye on the sugar mixture.) Raise heat on sugar mixture to medium high and bring to a boil without stirring; add candy thermometer. Continue boiling until a candy thermometer registers 230 degrees, about 5 minutes. (Meanwhile gradually add 2 tablespoons sugar to egg whites while beating on medium speed.) Remove sugar syrup from heat when it reaches 230 degrees. With mixer on medium-low speed, pour syrup in a steady stream down the side of bowl (to avoid splattering). Beat the frosting on high speed until cool, about seven minutes. It should be thick and shiny. Use immediately.
4. Make Ghosts: Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/4-inch tip with about 1 1/2 cups of frosting. Referring to the photo, pipe a ghost atop each tartlet. For each, apply pressure to squeeze out some frosting for a base, then lift the bag slowly, decreasing the pressure until the ghost is the desired size; stop the pressure and lift off the bag. Add 2 candy eyes to each ghost (it is easiest if you hold the “eye” by the black pupil when putting in place). Store in cool, dry location; serve within 8 hours.