Food

Emilie Dore's Witches' Fingers

Canadian Living
Food

Emilie Dore's Witches' Fingers

dsc03693 Early in the 1990s, the Canadian Living Test Kitchen received a letter from reader Emilie Dore. Emilie wrote that she had been invited to a party, a Hallowe'en party if my memory serves me right, and asked to bring finger food. Her inventive mind took the request literally, and using an icing sugar-based vanilla cookie dough, shaped the dough into long ovals, pressed a whole almond into one end for a fingernail, and near the other end, used the back of a knife to mark knuckle creases. Into the oven, and out came the cookies. And here's where finger-shaped cookies turned into witches' fingers. You probably all know that nuts stuck into a cookie are like  loose teeth, and as soon as the cookies are jiggled, the nuts falls out. How well this looseness worked for the ensuing Witches' Fingers! Emilie Dore removed the almonds, piped a good blob of red decorator gel into the cavity and replaced the almonds. The gel held the almonds secure, but more important, oozed up around the almond fingernails, creating truly gruesome looking fingers. Witches' Fingers.  Canadian Living published the recipe, and in the same year, the magazine moved from Yonge and Eglinton to Yonge and Sheppard in Toronto, with two different test kitchen facilities in the intervening months as we waited for appliances, flooring and cupboards in our lovely new kitchen. In the packing up and unpacking, Emilie Dore's letter was lost, as was credit for Witches' Fingers.  In the meantime, her recipe became the Hallowe'en recipe for countless Canadian Living readers, and many others, including bake shops and catering facilities that baked as many fingers as they could, and saw an eager public buy them all up in a trice. I can't tell you how delighted I was to be contacted by Emilie Dore a couple of years back. She emailed me introducing herself, and asking what we could do to let readers, and especially her family know that it was she who devised the fabled Witches' Fingers. The Canadian Living website did just that, and when in 2008 we published The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book, I took the opportunity to give credit to Emilie Dore for introducing us to Witches' Fingers.  In late summer 2009, I was invited to appear on the cooking stage. Book 'n' Cook at Toronto's Word on the Street, as it turns out, yesterday September 27. With the line-up organized by Emily Richards and MCd by the Cookbook Store's Alison Fryer, the stage attracted a large standing-room only crowd of food and word enthusiasts. In my thinking about what to demonstrate, my mind went to Witches' Fingers. With October on the horizon, ideas for parties leading up to Hallowe'en are always needed, and what better way to entertain party goers - you may think only kids, but teens and adults love these fingers too, than to prepare a batch of dough and invite participants to shape their own fingers, see them baked, do the squishy-gel-under-the-nail-step, and then get to take a few home.  And yes, even though many in the Word on the Street audience were familiar with Witches' Fingers, some were horrified to see  them for the first time, and everyone was able to learn about the reader who shared her Witches' Fingers with Canadian Living Magazine readers.   [caption id="attachment_635" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="Even when the flour has been incorporated, the dough is still too soft to shape. The refrigerator is your friend. "]Even when the flour has been incorporated, the dough is still too soft to shape. The refrigerator is your friend. [/caption]     Witches' Fingers 1 cup (250 mL) butter, softened 1 cup (250 mL) icing sugar 1 large egg at room temperature 1 tsp (5 mL) each vanilla and almond extract 2-3/4 cups (675 mL) all-purpose flour 1 tsp (5 mL) baking powder 3/4 tsp (4 mL) salt 3/4 cup (175 mL) whole blanched almonds, about 65 1 tube (19 g) red decorator gel . Line 2 rimless shiny baking sheets with parchment paper or grease; set aside. (Parchment is recommended.) . In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Beat in the icing sugar until blended. Beat in the egg, vanilla and almond extract, beating until the batter is smooth. . In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Stir half into the butter mixture, then stir in the remainder to make a soft smooth dough.   . Flatten into a disc; wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 1 day. . Working with a quarter of the dough at a time, and keeping the remainder refrigerated, roll heaping teaspoonfuls (generous 5 mL) into elongated ovals, about 2-1/2 inches (6.25 cm) long. Press an almond firmly into 1 end of dough for a nail. Press the dough to thicken slightly in the middle to create a wider knuckle. Using the back of a paring knife, press across in 3 places to form knuckle wrinkles. Place on prepared baking sheets leaving about 2 inches (5 cm) between fingers.  . Refrigerate fingers on baking sheets until firm about 45 minutes. . Bake 1 sheet at at time in the centre of a 325°F (160°C) oven until pale golden underneath and the almond has darkened slightly, about 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool on pan on rack for about 5 minutes.   [caption id="attachment_636" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="In spite of the chilling, the cookies spread. Be sure to leave space between the raw fingers. "]In spite of the chilling, the cookies spread. Be sure to leave space between the raw fingers. [/caption]     . Lift up almonds, 1 at a time. Squeeze red decorator gel into the cavity (aka nail bed) and press almond back in place so gel oozes out from underneath and frames the fingernail. Transfer to racks to cool. (Make-ahead: Layer between waxed paper in airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 5 days.) . Makes about 60 cookies.  Important Tip: Red decorator gel is available in supermarkets with the decorator collection of sprinkles, icings and coloured sugars in the baking section. Get your tube as soon as possible as red seems to be scarce.  If red is not available, talk to your store manager as soon as possible. Otherwise, you are going to have to persuade your children that witches' blood is green, or heaven help us, blue. Chocolate Witches' Fingers . Make as directed for Witches' Fingers with the following easy changes. . Replace 1/4 cup (50 mL) of the all-purpose flour with cocoa powder. . Instead of whisking the dry ingredients, you need to sift the cocoa with the flour, baking powder and salt. Sift twice or until the dark cocoa and white dry ingredients are perfectly blended.   . To bring out the chocolate flavour, you can replace the 1 tsp (5 mL) almond extract with vanilla bringing the vanilla up to 2 tsp (10 mL).   [caption id="attachment_637" align="alignleft" width="450" caption="When making a batch of cookies, I find it easier if I measure out all the blobs of dough (bottom), then shape them into rounds before forming the elongated oval. The final step, top,  is pressing in the almonds and marking the knuckle. "]When making a batch of cookies, I find it easier if I measure out all the blobs of dough, then shape them into rounds before forming the elongated oval. The final step is pressing in the almonds and marking the knuckle. [/caption]
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Emilie Dore's Witches' Fingers

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