Thinking up some spooky ghoulish treats to bake can be a fun way to spend the weekend before Halloween. There are lots of ways you can craft your baking to make it scary, from having jelly worms pop out of your buns to ghosts made from whipped, white meringue or shortbread witches fingers with almond fingernails. The recipe included here for spider cookies are fun and tasty, there is the more sedate pumpkin bun or barmbrack for the grown-ups.
The old Celtic festival of Samhain has been subsumed into Halloween. Samhain was original celebrated in pagan times as it was believed to be the division between the light and the dark halves of the year.
At Samhain the partition between this world and the otherworld was at its thinnest, allowing souls to pass through. It was an evening when spirits could come back to earth to visit those still living.
During Samhain people used the harvest to welcome the spirits of their their relatives but also held rituals to ward off any unwanted visitors.
Barmbrack is an Irish cake with all the mythology of Samhain woven into its history. The objects baked with the cake could foretell your future, a ring announcing an impending wedding or a piece of cloth announcing a life lived in rags.
The brack recipe here is rich and heavy and perfect on a winters day. It stores well and tastes better, in my mind, a few days after baking.
For the cookies
For the spider bodies
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line two flat baking trays with parchment.
Stir the coconut, oats, flour and sugar together.
Stir the melted butter and golden syrup together. Add the boiling water and bread soda.
Combine the two mixtures. Place a soup spoon of the mixture onto the trays. Leave a bit of space as it will spread slightly.
Bake for about eight minutes until golden. Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
While they are baking heat the cream until it is shivering, stir in the chocolate chips until they melt. Stir in the coconut and set aside to cool completely. Roll into balls between your palm, set them on a plate and put them into the fridge to harden completely.
Melt the remaining chocolate and butter. Allow to cool to just above room temperature and gently dip the cold coconut chocolate balls into it. Sit them onto the cooled cookies and place back into the fridge. Stick the eyes on with a little more melted chocolate once the spiders are cold. Pipe on the legs.
Preheat your oven to 180 degrees and place 12 bun cases into a bun tin.
Stir the oil, eggs and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the vanilla, pumpkin, pecan nuts and zest and gently stir until everything is combined.
Mix the cake spice and bread soda into the flour and stir this mixture into the bun mixture.
Scoop it into the waiting bun cases and bake for 25 minutes until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Mix the dried fruit and zest together and add the tea, juice and whiskey. Place into a large bowl and cover with clingfilm. Leave to stand over night or for at least three hours.
The next day preheat your oven to 180 degrees and line a 2lb loaf tin with parchment.
Add the flour, sugar and spices to the fruit and stir everything well. Stir in the eggs and combine the mixture completely. Scoop it into the lined tin.
Bake for 50 minutes and then test it with a skewer, it may need another ten minutes or so. While it is still warm brush the honey over the top. Allow to cool in the tin.