Excerpted from Halloween: A Grown-Up's Guide to Creative Costumes, Devilish Decor and Fabulous Festivities by Joanne O'Sullivan (Lark, 2003).
Most of the time, having a few friends over for a nice meal and a few glasses of wine is the maximum effort a working grown-up can expend on entertaining. But there comes a time in everyone's life to go beyond the ordinary and host a truly legendary party. Louis XIV had le Bal du Roy in 1668. Truman Capote had his Black and White Ball in the 1960s. A Halloween masked ball and dessert party could be yours. Are you ready to give it a try?
To pull off this party, you'll have to be committed to a vision. Frankenstein's monster and the mummy must be turned away at the door. This is an elegant affair with a spooky edge, a party that seems like the ghost of lavish balls of the past. Don't be intimidated, though. There's very little cooking involved, and the decorating requires very little expense and only an afternoon of styling. With a little time to plan and some willing guests, your party should be a smashing success.
Make it easy for your guests to get in the spirit of the ball. If you provide them with a mask in the invitation, there's no excuse for them to show up without one. The Baroque look of this invitation sets the stage for an intriguing night and helps to build anticipation for your fabulous party.
YOU WILL NEED:
• Clear-drying adhesive or glue
• Bone folder or butter knife
• Envelope template
• Wrapping paper with lettering or colour copy of old letter
• Cooking parchment (bleached or unbleached)
• Mask template
To make the envelope, cut out envelope shape from cooking parchment. Crease the fold lines with a bone folder or butter knife. If using bleached parchment, place it on a baking sheet and bake it for 10 to 15 minutes at 325F (162C), and allow to cool. The paper will now have a light tan color. If you wish to age the envelopes further, smudge a light coat of sepia-toned ink along the edges.
Glue the envelope together with adhesive or glue, leaving the top flap open.
The invitation is written on a piece of wrapping paper that resembles an old hand-written letter. If you can't find paper like this, find an old letter in an antique store or copy one from a book. Color photocopy the letter onto stiff paper. Cut the letter to fit, writing side out, folded in half inside your envelope. Write your invitation message by hand on the blank side of the letter, or drop a printed invitation inside.
Enlarge and photocopy the mask templates onto thick paper. Cut along the outside edge and place the mask, image side out, in the envelope over the old letter so it shows on the address side.
Your aim for this party is all-out opulence and an atmosphere that 's a little ghostly. Remind your guests that this is a ball, so costumes are a must. Make it easy for them by including a mask base in the invitation. All they need to do is decorate it- feathers, flowers, or collage are ideal materials. Your invitation phrasing should also encourage fancy dress. You may even want to include ideas on where they might find cast-off formal wear in your town. Since the eighteenth century was the golden age of masked balls, it's the perfect time period to emulate. Think Louis XIV, the Sun King, and Madam de Pompadour.
The fun part of preparing for this party is decorating. We chose a white, gold, and silver color scheme, reminiscent of a Versailles ball. Ghostly branches, painted white and strung with chandelier crystal "icicles" are elegant and eerie. Tulle is inexpensive, easy to find, and adds mystery to the atmosphere. Use it to drape your table and chairs, too. We ran minilights down the center of the table then added a layer of tulle on top. The effect is a subtly glowing table that invites guests to linger nearby. We snaked a white feather boa down the table and nested silver Christmas balls alongside it. The look is over-the-top and luxurious. Since this is a Halloween party, pumpkins and gourds play a part. Luckily, there are several varieties of white pumpkins and gourds. We even masked a few of them to echo the party theme.
Instead of flowers, which might be expensive or difficult to find at Halloween, we used white vases filled with dramatic plumes. These ones come from fall grasses, but you could also use feathers.
Silver and gold tableware are great choices for this party. You can add sparkly decorations to the handles of your trays to dress them up. Use a silver candelabra if you have one, with white candles, of course. If you can find them, vintage tea tins are great for displaying gourmet cookies. Just stuff the tin with silver tissue paper and artfully arrange the cookies inside. You can even tuck silvery decorations among the cookies for added sparkle. Glitter-covered plastic fruits are great in a centerpiece, or you can make real sugared fruit for an inviting display.
Treat your guests to a sumptuous dessert spread. Gourmet cookies and hard candies should spill from the trays. Make traditional Halloween desserts (didn't know there were such things?) such as Cream Crowdies and Soul Cakes. We also provide a tempting punch recipe.
In terms of music, you may want to start the evening with some baroque music that's a little spooky. Harpsichord music has a haunting, Halloween feeling. Verdi's "Un Ballo a Maschera" is a must. If your guests are up for learning some baroque dance steps and you have the space, try a Viennese waltz by Strauss. As the night goes on, switch to something a little more upbeat. Lounge music from the 1950s might be just the ticket.
FEATHERED FANTASY MASKS
These incredible masks by Danusia Brandstetter are truly breathtaking. The feminine white one is made from parrot, ostrich, rooster, and goose feathers, with a white peacock quill and Czech crystal and other beads as accents. The masculine mask is made from golden pheasant, Reeve's pheasant, ringneck pheasant, rooster, and peacock feathers. The small deer antlers give it an otherworldly feel.
While you may not be able to re-create these masks (Danusia is an expert), don't be intimidated. Use a pre-made mask form as a base and add feathers (you can get them at craft stores or on-line) starting with the largest ones on the edge of the mask, working inward toward the eye holes with smaller feathers.
Elaborate ball gowns and immovable hairdos may leave your guests reluctant to undertake any activities that involve dexterity or even movement. Try some genteel amusements appropriate to the nature of the evening.
Try parlor games, such as Charades. Celebrity is an easy and amusing game you might try. Everyone writes the name of five (or more) celebrities on a slip of paper and drops the paper into a bowl. One person at a time, each player draws a name, then describes the celebrity to a partner without saying the celebrity name. the partner tries to guess the name based on the information provided. As the partner guesses correctly, the player continues to draw as many names as possible in a two-minute time period. The game continues until all the names have been selected. The team that guesses the most celebrity names wins.
As your satisfied guests start to drift toward the door at the end of the evening, remind them to take a party favor from a tiered tray on your table or sideboard.
Fill little white organdy gift bags (the kind used for wedding favors) with an assortment of the finer things in life (at least those that are tiny enough to fit in the bags). Let your guests pick which bag they like.
We stuffed these bags with luxurious chocolate coins, peppermint eggs, Italian hard candies, nostalgic rock candy, and pastel-colored bath beads. Stuff some bags with lavender or other fragrant herbs for an instant sachet that guests can slide into a drawer for a long-lasting reminder of your elegant Halloween affair.
A cranachan or cream crowdie is a traditional Scottish dessert popular on Halloween night and used in divination games. When assembling the dessert, the host would insert coins, rings, and marbles into the mix. Those who got a coin would have a prosperous future, those who got a ring would get married, and those who got a marble were destined for a life of loneliness. If nothing was found in the dessert, the future was said to be uncertain. This dessert is sweet and a little bit decadent (note the whiskey) but very easy to make.
YOU WILL NEED
• 6 tbsp (90 g) Oatmeal
• I pint (900 g) Raspberries or strawberries
• 20 oz. (591 mL) Double cream
• 6 tbsp (90 g) Honey
• 6 tbsp (90 g) Single malt whiskey
• Mixing bowl
• Whisk or fork
• Parfait glasses
• Trinkets to mix into desserts such as coins, rings, or marbles
1. Toast the oatmeal until it is golden brown. Let it cool in the pan.
2. Place the cream in a bowl and whisk until soft and relatively thick.
3. Add the honey and single malt whiskey and fold it in with a whisk until it's soft and creamy. If you're planning to add trinkets to the mixture, do it now.
4. Put a few raspberries in the bottom of each parfait glass. Fold the rest into the cream mixture.
5. Spoon the rest of mixture into the glasses, then add cream to the top and sprinkle on the oatmeal. Add a few more raspberries to the top and chill for three hours.
In eighteenth and nineteenth century Ireland and England, women baked Soul Cakes on October 31 and November I in preparation for All Souls' Day, November 2. On All Souls' Day, children went from door to door "souling": singing and begging for soul cakes or, in some areas, exchanging soul cakes for candy or pennies. Later that night, families ate soul cakes after dinner and performed Souling Night plays.
Try making your own soul cakes on All Hallows' Eve using the following recipe.
YOU WILL NEED
• 2 sticks Butter
• 3-3/4 cups Sifted Flour
• 1 cup (200 g) Sugar
• 1/4 tsp (1.2 mL) Nutmeg or mace
• 1 tsp (5 g) Each of cinnamon, ginger, and allspice
• 2 Eggs
• 2 tsp (9.8 mL) Malt vinegar or cider vinegar
• Powdered sugar
• Mixing bowl
• Pastry blender (optional)
• Baking sheet
1. Preheat the oven to 350 F (176 C).
2. Cut the butter into the flour with a pastry blender or fork.
3. Blend in the sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.
4. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add in the vinegar. Add the egg mixture to the flour mixture and beat until a stiff dough forms.
5. Knead thoroughly and roll out, 1/4 inch (6 mm) thick. Cut tie dough into 3-inch (7.6 cm) rounds and set on a greased baking sheet.
6. Prick the top of the cakes with a fork. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.
As an elegant addition to your dessert table, try this rich champagne punch recipe.
YOU WILL NEED
• 1 cup (236 mL) Orange-flavored liquer
• 1 cup (236 mL) Brandy
• 1/2 cup (118 mL) Black raspberry liquer
• 2 cups (473ML) Unsweetened pineapple juice
• 1 quart (946.3) Chilled ginger ale
• 2 Chilled bottles dry champagne (750 mL each)
In a bowl, combine the orange-flavored liqueur, the brandy, the black raspberry liqueur, and the pineapple juice and chill the mixture, covered, for at least 4 hours or overnight. In a large punch bowl, combine the chilled mixture with ginger ale and champagne and add ice cubes.
Makes about 16 cups (3.7 L), serving 12.