Even though it seems the holiday has been marketed everywhere since just after Labor Day, Halloween sometimes still has the power to sneak up on you. So it's very possible that, like me, you haven't done much more than stick a cardboard-cutout black cat or witch on the door and buy a few big bags of those so-called "fun size" little candy bars.
We mean well. We intended to do something fun for the holiday. But other things came up and, well, here we are!
So, please allow me to share with you a classic chef's trick for coming up with perfect last-minute treats: Start with your tried-and-true recipes, ones on which you know you can rely, and add a little trick or two.
That's the spirit behind my recipe for Batty Bittersweet Chocolate Mousse with Chocolate Cookie Wings. It takes a pair of very basic, sure-to-be-delicious recipes, introduces a few little creative presentation twists, and -- almost no more quickly than you can say, "Boo!" -- results in a perfect Halloween dessert. Make it for you and the kids to enjoy before or after you go out trick-or-treating; for a grown-up Halloween dinner; or, with the quantities doubled or tripled, for a casual Oct. 31 gathering for adults and children alike.
The main components of the preparation are two very basic recipes indeed: a simple cookie dough turned dark brown with the addition of a little cocoa powder; and a simple chocolate mousse made from just two ingredients, melted bittersweet chocolate and whipped heavy cream. Both of those elements, needless to say, rely on using good ingredients to give them an intense chocolate flavor. So look for the best-quality cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate you can find. Use a cocoa powder brand that's labeled as having been "Dutch processed," a treatment that neutralizes its natural acidity so it won't react with the baking powder in the dough; you'll find many gourmet brands that are good, but the widely available Hershey's unsweetened cocoa powder for baking is also good and reliable. As for the chocolate, you'll find many good choices today, from European imports like Valrhona or Lindt to domestic quality options like Scharffen Berger to a wide variety of small boutique products.
As for the touches of creativity, those come in forming the mousse and round cookies into the plump little bodies of our bats, which you'll coat with a shiny chocolate glaze. Each body gets two cookie wings, shaped from a template you can draw freehand on cardboard and cut out.
It's as simple as that. And when anyone marvels at your creativity, feel free to reply modestly, "Oh, it's just a little something I scared up!"
BATTY BITTERSWEET CHOCOLATE MOUSSE WITH CHOCOLATE COOKIE WINGS
Chocolate Cookie Dough (see separate recipe)
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