I’m an unmitigated scaredy cat when it comes to horror movies and not ashamed to admit it–blame it on a neurotic, overly dramatic, “waiting for the apocalypse” mother and my own active imagination. No doubt many of my friends have hunkered down in front of their television sets with pizzas and big bowls of popcorn for a Halloween fright fest, binge watching horror flick after horror flick this weekend–savoring every blood curdling scream, dismembered body part, and demonic possession. I, on the other hand, am crafting cocktails, baking bundt cakes and assembling Halloween treats (see recipes below) while watching Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (2016)–low on the horror, high on kitsch. Okay, true Austenites might be truly horrified by the mash-up but I find it oddly entertaining… given my love of Austen’s novel, quirky zombie films, and Doctor Who (11th Doctor Matt Smith plays everyone’s favorite buffoon Mr. Collins).
The image of butt-kicking zombie assassin Bennet sisters had me from the get-go.
Suffice it to say I don’t do the standard scary horror movie, like Saw (2004) or The Exorcist (1973), not so much because I’m squeamish about blood and gore or extreme violence (which I’m not given the number of Quentin Tarantino films I’ve seen), but because they dredge up my own fears about the pitch black ugly side of the human psyche. All you have to do is watch the news and you’re reminded there really are seriously deranged individuals out there committing unspeakable acts against humanity.
While we’re on the subject of scary movie themes, paranormal ghost stories are also not high on my watch list either…because, yes, I do believe in ghosts. I made the mistake of watching The Others (2001) on a cold dark night by myself (hey I got sucked into the story before I realized it was a “horror flick”) and nearly jumped out of my skin when my roommate came into the apartment. I won’t spoil the ending if you haven’t seen the film, but it scared the crap out of me. I think I made myself watch some stupid sitcoms for an hour and eat dessert afterwards just to settle my nerves!
They say screaming is cathartic, but I prefer to laugh…much less stressful. For those of you like me, who like their gore peppered (intentional or not) with humor, here are a few movies to check out this Halloween night:
The Lost Boys (1987) – I have fond memories of this 80’s teenage comedy horror flick starring the ubiquitous two Corey’s (Feldman and Haim), set in my college town of Santa Cruz. Before he became known as uber operative Jack Bauer in 24, Kiefer Sutherland play one menacing vampire gang leader.
An American Werewolf in London (1981) – The original is still the best. I watched this with friends when I was at university in England. Having traverse all through London on the tube, we laughed and screamed with horror at the werewolf mauling scene inside the Green Park tube station.
From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) – George Clooney and Quentin Tarantino play fugitive bank robbers turned would-be vampire killers. It’s a delirious, campy adrenaline rush. Clooney is a eye-candy dish full of sexy snarkiness.
Shaun of the Dead (2004) – Leave to Brits Simon Peg and Nick Frost to make a fun zombie movie. Dawn of the Dead this ain’t!
Less I forget, here are the recipes I’ve been working on while watching my non-scary Halloween movie.
I know I could’ve given it a more Halloween-y name but Fall Breeze is a more apt description of this effervescent drink. It’s got all the flavors of fall with a spicy kick that perks you up like a crisp breeze.
- 2 oz. Bourbon Whiskey
- 1 oz. Apple Cider
- .75 oz. Fresh Ginger Syrup*
- .5 oz. Lemon Juice
- 5 dashes Persimmon Bitters
- Chilled Seltzer Water
- Fresh Sage and Sliced Fuyu Persimmon for Garnish
Combine the bourbon whiskey, cider, ginger syrup, lemon juice and bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add 4-5 ice cubes and shake vigorously to blend. Strain the liquor into a chilled martini glass and top with seltzer. Garnish drink with a slice of persimmon and a small sprig of fresh sage.
Fresh Ginger Syrup:
Place 1 1/2 cups peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger root and the zest of a lime and a lemon into a medium saucepan and cover with 3 cups cold water. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 mins. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the mixture steep for about an hour. Strain out the ginger and pour the strained liquid back into a saucepan. Whisk in 3 cups sugar and the juice of the lime and lemon. Bring the mixture to a boil, then pour it through a fine mesh strainer. Cool to room temperature, transfer into mason jars or glass bottles and refrigerate. This recipe makes enough syrup for many drinks!
Pumpkin bundt cake is a homey staple on Halloween, especially when it’s decorated to look like an actual pumpkin. Alas, I went a different route with mine…mainly because it was a belated birthday cake for my favorite aunt and she’s not crazy about big frosting laden cakes. Her cake was not overly sweet or heavily spiced–simply moist and flavorful, with a dulce de leche cream cheese filing and bittersweet chocolate ganache glaze, tastefully decorated with tiny strips of dried mandarin orange.
Chocolate Glazed Pumpkin Bundt with Dulce de Leche Filling
- 1 1/2 cups Golden Brown Sugar
- 4 Large Eggs
- 1/2 cup Oil (Canola, Sunflower, etc.)
- 4 oz. Butter (1 stick), cooked to a nutty brown and cooled to room temperature
- 1/2 cup Buttermilk
- 1 1/4 cups Pumpkin Puree
- 2 Tbsp. Bourbon
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- 1 tsp. Maple Extract
- 2 3/4 cups All-Purpose Flour
- 2 tsp. Baking Powder
- 2 tsp. Baking Soda
- 3/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. Ginger
- 1/4 tsp. Cardamom
- 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
Whisk together the sugar and all the wet ingredients. Sift the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and center a well in the center. Pour the wet ingredients into the well and whisk everything together until well incorporated.
- 6 oz. Cream Cheese, softened at room temperature
- 1/2 cup Dulce de Leche
- 1 Tbsp. All-Purpose Flour
- 1 Large Egg
- 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
- Pinch of Sea or Kosher Salt
Bittersweet Chocolate Ganache
- 18 oz. Bittersweet Chocolate (60-70%), finely chopped
- 2 cups. Heavy Cream
- 3 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup
- 1/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Espresso Powder (or Instant Coffee)
- 1/4 cup Sour Cream
- 2 Tbsp. Rum, Whiskey or Brandy (optional)
Place the chopped chocolate in a mixing bowl. Combine the cream and corn syrup in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat and whisk in the salt and espresso powder. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate, wait about 2 mins., then gently whisk the chocolate and cream together until the chocolate has completely melted. Whisk in the sour cream and liquor.
To glaze the bundt, set the wire rack with the cooled bundt over a sheet of parchment and ladle the warm glaze over the top.
There was, of course, still plenty of ganache leftover from glazing the bundt…so I decided to use it for my next Halloween treat–Chocolate Peanut Butter Pumpkins. I’ve wanted to make something with this pumpkin-shaped silicon candy mold I bought on sale last year and these were the perfect treats to make. There’s no baking involved! I simply filled the molds with a white chocolate peanut butter truffle, topped them with a thin layer of ganache and sprinkled on some crushed salted pretzels and leftover peanut butter toffee I’d whipped up for a batch of cookie dough I’d made earlier in the week. You can substitute any kind of crushed toffee-like candy (e.g Butterfinger, Heath, etc.). I placed the mold into the freezer to set up, then popped the little pumpkins out.
White Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle
- 1 cup Chunky Peanut Butter
- 10 oz. White Chocolate Chips (I like Trader Joe’s)
- 1/4 tsp. Sea or Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
Place everything in a heatproof bowl (starting with the peanut butter). Set the bowl over a pot of simmer water and stirring occasionally until the white chocolate is completely melted and fully incorporated into the peanut butter.
Keep these treats refrigerated until ready to serve.