Every year, I head to the supermarket to pick up a pack of Pillsbury Halloween sugar cookies. You know the kind. The ones with a small Jack-o-Lantern or ghost in the middle and they taste like pure sugar. Well, this year, I couldn’t find any! So, I thought I’d take matters into my own hands and try to make my own.
I already had a citrus cookie recipe in mind when I decided to make these. We had just acquired a giant bag of calamansi (or calamondin) from a friend and I thought it’d add a nice subtle flavor to an easy cookie. So, I decided to just merge the two ideas together.
Calamansi is a citrus hybrid, so it kind of just tastes like a very tart mandarin orange. I know, it’s kind of weird to have a pumpkin cookie (that really should taste like pumpkin) that tastes like citrus. I really enjoyed it, but you can flavor these cookies however you want, or not at all. You can still achieve this look with just the base cookie dough and food coloring.
I didn’t actually have any Halloween cookie cutters so I improvised by reshaping a different cookie cutter into a pumpkin. However, you can find lots of fun ones on Amazon or Etsy. Additionally, you can make these with whatever shape or color that you want. Try experimenting with it!
When it comes to forming the middle, just make sure to work with the dough while it’s very cold and very firm. It’ll be hard to maintain the shape if they soften while you work with it. You’ll also want to make sure you press out all air pockets in order to get the shape and contrast desired.
I added raw sugar to the edges of these cookies but you can either substitute with a sprinkle of your choice or omit this step in general. These cookies aren’t very sweet to begin with, so it might help the flavors come out a little more. As I said earlier, you can also substitute the calamansi juice with lemon juice, orange juice, or any other extract (if so, add much less).
These will definitely impress your friends and family. Even though I still love the Pillsbury version (we’ll never be able to replicate it), I really like that you know exactly what’s in these and that you can customize them so they’re flavored! The cookie dough log should last in your fridge for 1 week or in your freezer for up to 3 months.
Slice n’ Bake Halloween Cookies
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 1/3 cup butter
- 1 egg
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 tbsp calamansi juice (optional)
- 1 tbsp calamansi zest (optional)
- food coloring
Make the two doughs:
- Sift flour, salt, and baking soda together in a medium bowl.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream sugars and butter together well.
- Add egg and mix well, making sure its fully combined.
- Add the flour mixture and vanilla to the creamed mixture. Mix until combined.
- Portion out half of your dough. Wrap one half in plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator.
- Add the calamansi juice and zest to the other half of the dough. Mix well. If the dough is too wet, add a little more flour (no more than 1/4 cup extra).
- Add the food coloring. I made the border a slightly lighter color. If you would like to do the same, divide the dough so that 2/3 is reserved for the border and 1/3 for the middle. I added 8 drops of yellow and 4 drops of red for the base color. To achieve a more vibrant color, I used gel food coloring (I did not want to add too much liquid).
- Form into a disc and wrap dough(s) in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes or until firm.
Create the middle design:
- Roll out the vibrant dough on a floured surface. It does not matter how thick it is, since you'll be attaching them together anyway. However, I found that it was easier to work with when it was thinner (1/4 to 1/2-inch).
- Cut out dough with desired cookie cutter. When finished, roll out dough again and continue cutting. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Place in the freezer for 10-15 minutes or until firm.
- Whisk the egg white with a tablespoon of water to create an egg wash. This will bind the center design together.
- Take the cut cookies out of the freezer. Brush the egg mixture onto the cut cookies and then press another one on top.
- Continue to press the cookies together until you have a long column of them. If they get hard to work with, make smaller columns and pop them back in the freezer for a couple of minutes. Make sure to press them together well, so that every part of it is sticking.
- Once all of them are in one column, place them back in the freezer for 20-30 minutes, until very firm.
- When middles are completely firm, roll out the base dough (no food coloring) into a large rectangle. It should be as long as the column of cut cookies.
- Roll the base dough around the column of cut cookies. Press into the middles to make sure there are no air pockets. Roll into a log.
- Roll out the lighter colored dough into a large rectangle the same size as the one before. Wrap around the cookie dough log. Keep rolling until it's in an even layer and there is no seam.
- Roll in raw sugar or sprinkles if you want. Wrap in plastic wrap and place back in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or until completely firm.
- Toward the end of the chilling time, preheat the oven to 350° F.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Slice off the ends of your cookie dough log (they'll be mishappened but still delicious!). Slice into 1/2-inch cookies. If there are still air pockets around the middle design, pinch the surrounding dough to get rid of them.
- Place cookies on baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes.