In my book Halloween snacks should be tasty as well as fun. And these Spooky Breadstick Fingers definitely fit the bill.
Normally I don’t even attempt to make Halloween-themed food. I can barely carve a pumpkin and don’t have any desire to make an edible spider web or ghost cookies. So, when our Progressive Eats host for this month, Anshie Dhar, announced that the theme would be “Spooktacular Halloween Party,” I considered sitting it out.
But then I came across the idea of spooky breadstick fingers. For reasons I can’t fathom or explain, that concept really caught my imagination.
Most Halloween breadsticks I found online use pizza or similar dough. (I did find a gluten-free version.) Some used homemade dough, while others used refrigerated, store-bought dough. Even well known bloggers and cookbook authors have gotten onboard with this: Giada De Laurentiis has witch finger cookies; Nick of Macheesmo does them with pretzel dough, and Jeff and Zoe do theirs, plain or spinach-tinged, with their master recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.
Of course, I wanted to go my own way.
Heading back to my Jewish roots for inspiration, I went towards a childhood favorite of mine – pletzel. Do you know what bialys are? Doughy circles with an indentation in the middle filled with lightly sautéed onion, seeds, and salt, bialys are what bagels can only wish they were. Pletzel is the bialy’s first cousin. A bialy is the size of a bagel. Pletzel is similar in taste to a bialy, but it’s a board the size of a cookie sheet. Generally rectangular, pletzel is thin the middle, where the onion and seed-flecked filling goes. It thickens towards the edge, with a bumpy quality that lets you combine crisp and chewy in a single bite.
When I was a kid, my dad and I used to go to the bakery most weekends for rye bread and pletzel. On the way home, we’d start by eating the ends off the rye bread, usually before my dad even started the car. Or, if we were being sneaky, we’d eat a couple of slices from the center and push the bread together as if the center slices weren’t missing. Then we’d start on the pletzel. By the time we got home (barely a 5-minute drive from the bakery), the pletzel might be half gone. Even if it was mostly still in the bag, there was always a hunk of the crispy edge torn off.
These Spooky Breadstick Fingers use the same dough as traditional pletzel, but they are thicker because of their shape. Think of them as a Halloween version of Jewish focaccia. The recipe is a mash-up of one from Joan Nathan and another from Food52. While it doesn’t taste as complex as focaccia, it takes a lot less time to prepare, with only a 1-hour rise and a 15-minute rest, as opposed to the two long rises that really good focaccia requires.
The ingredients are simple. The base is bread dough with oil and the topping consists of lightly browned onion with sesame and poppyseeds. For effect, whole almond stuck onto the ends of the fingers made creepy nails.
Perhaps the best part of making these Spooky Breadstick Fingers is that you don’t have to worry if your creations are not works of art. In fact, the more misshapen, the better. I made hands as well as fingers, using my own hand as a rough guide. Then I added some extra “knobs” and weird creases. In the end, you sprinkle the topping over the dough anyway. So without much artistic flare, you’ll end up making creepy – and wonderful – savory Halloween breadsticks.
Welcome to Progressive Eats, our virtual version of a Progressive Dinner Party. Our menu this month features a cocktail, appetizers and Desserts for a Spooktacular Halloween Party. Hosting this month is Ansh from Spiceroots.
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner involves going from house to house, enjoying a different course at each location. With Progressive Eats, a theme is chosen each month, members share recipes suitable for a delicious meal or party, and you can hop from blog to blog to check them out.
Spooktacular Halloween Party
- Spooky Breadstick Fingers from Mother Would Know
- Black Magic Martini from Spiceroots
- Meringue Ghost Cookies from Creative Culinary
- Mummy Cookies from The RedHead Baker
- Jack O’Lantern Apple Hand Pies from The Wimpy Vegetarian
- Halloween Spider Chocolate Chip Cookies from That Skinny Chick Can Bake
- Loch Ness Monster Pumpkin Strudel from Pastry Chef Online
Spooky Breadstick Fingers
Two spooky hands with fingers made of dough topped by onions, poppy and sesame seeds and salt. A great savory Halloween treat.
- 2 packages active dry yeast (in 1 cup warm water) (4 1/2 teaspoons)
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 6 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- 5 cups flour (preferably bread flour, but all-purpose works too)
- 1 medium onion, finely diced About 1 cup diced.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 cloves garlic, minced or finely diced
- 3 tablespoons lightly toasted sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons poppy seeds
- 1-1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or coarse sea salt
- 10 whole almonds
Mix the yeast into 1 cup of warm water (100-120 degrees F.) Stir the yeast to dissolve it and then let the mixture stand in a warm place for 10 minutes.
Put the lightly beaten eggs, olive oil, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Add the yeast/water mixture and then about 4 cups of the flour. Mix with a fork or your lightly floured hands. Add more flour until the mixture is soft and slightly sticky.
Turn the dough onto a floured mat or counter and knead it for about 10 minutes. Lightly oil the large bowl. Put the ball of dough back in the bowl, cover the top with a clean towel, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour. While the dough is rising, make the topping.
Once the dough has risen, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees F. Set aside 2 parchment-lined cookie sheets
Divide the dough into 12 pieces - 2 larger (for the hands) and 10 smaller for the fingers. Flatten the "hand" pieces and place them on the parchment-lined cookie sheets. Roll the fingers (it's fine if they are bumpy), and attach the them to the hands by pinching them together with the hand-shaped dough.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the diced onion and gently sauté it for about 8 minutes until golden brown, with a few pieces getting darker. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the minced garlic, sesame and poppy seeds, and the salt and let the mixture come to room temperature.
Brush the hands (with fingers attached) with water and then spoon the topping mixture onto the hands and fingers. Lightly press the topping on so it doesn't fall off and drizzle the last tablespoon of oil over the hands. Press the almonds (for fingernails) into the end of each finger, pushing dough around them so the almonds don't fall off.
Let the hands rest, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Then bake for about 30 minutes. Switch the cookie sheets from one rack to the other, and rotate them from back-to-front halfway through. If the hands are getting browned before the dough is fully baked, cover them lightly with a sheet of foil. Once they are done, you can serve them "as is," and let your guests pull them apart.
The water for dissolving the yeast should be warm, not hot. Keep in mind that water boils at 212 degrees F, so this water is nowhere near simmering. I prefer to use cold water heated by microwave or on the stove because warm tap water in an old house such as mine can pick up lead from the pipes.