In recent years I have tried to steer clear of packaged cake and cookie mixes mostly because I enjoy baking and so I like to start from scratch. That way it really feels like my own creation. But also because even just a quick glance at the ingredients of boxed mixes usually reveals a long, unappealing list of unhealthy “fake” foods. When it comes to baking, I prefer to use the real stuff; flour (usually whole wheat), eggs, milk, butter, and sugar or honey when possible. It’s one area where I rarely cut corners to save time and calories. I have a favorite cut-out cookie recipe I use from my mother’s Joy of Cooking cookbook and I have a stand-by scratch recipe I use for baking cakes and cupcakes. These days I try not to even bake brownies out of a box unless I’m in a pinch. Of course, baking from scratch does take a little extra time and effort and sometimes that’s not in the cards. When a local company called Brand Castle reached out to me to review some of their most popular Halloween baking kits, I decided it might be fun to give them a try. After all, Halloween is almost all about treats and how many of us want to be a witch and tell our little ghosts and goblins they can’t enjoy special snacks at their school party. And that big bag of candy they bring home on Halloween is going to be full of goodies that are not “good” for them at all. So, I decided not to be a party pooper and agreed to accept these handy little kits for some baking fun on the run with the kids.
They were off of school AGAIN on Friday for ANOTHER four day weekend, so it was a perfect chance to have a ghoulish good time baking together. The kids went straight for the Zombie Dance Party Cookie Kit. Once you are no longer in preschool, apparently scary things are cool. Before you get started, look at the box to make sure you have the other ingredients that are needed including butter, egg, powdered sugar and milk. When we bake at our house, the kids usually take turns doing each step in the recipe. This almost always involves bickering about who gets to break the eggs, the most coveted of all the baking jobs. Once all the ingredients were added, I handled mixing the dough together with a hand mixer. The recipe didn’t say whether to use an electric mixer or to mix by hand, but the rest of the steps were pretty clear and easy to follow. At first, the dough seemed too crumbly and dry, but once I started mixing in the green powder color it began to come together. In fact, it ended up being a little too sticky. When I make cut out cookies, I always roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper and then place it on a cookie sheet in the fridge for awhile to let it firm up. It helps the dough stay firm enough to not lose the shape of the cutter when you transfer it to the cookie sheet for baking. You might try doing this if you make zombie cookies as well. We managed to get all of the dough cut out without the zombies (or my children) losing any limbs. The kids thought the bright green dough was pretty cool. I, on the other hand, could only think of the “Yellow 5 Lake” and “Blue 1 Lake” artificial coloring used to make it. I’m not a fan of artificial anything which is one of the reasons I don’t usually buy these packaged kits, but I figured a few little cookies wouldn’t do any harm. If it really bothers you, you could probably leave out the coloring, but what’s a zombie if he’s not green?
While the cookies were baking in the oven, the kids ran outside to play and I made the frosting. When I make frosting I usually include butter, powdered sugar and milk. That’s it. The kit asked me to include these items as well, so I’m not sure what was in the packet from the kit and whether it was really necessary. It was definitely sweet and tasty though. Then it was decorating time! The cookies held their shape well while baking and didn’t get too puffed up. I gave each of the kids their own little bowl of the white frosting to spread on the cookies. The kit suggests using the supplied piping bag (which I used for the cookies I decorated), but a plastic knife or spoon is easier for little hands. We took turns using the red and black icing tubes to create scary faces and bloody parts. It would be great if there were two more of those tubes as my kids went through them quickly and we ran out. I have to admit, I was pretty certain that the cookie decorating was going to be a debacle. I figured the girls would be disappointed that their cookies didn’t look the same as the perfectly gory zombies on the box. We have a history of perfectionism in our house and tears and tantrums as a result. But, in fact, they all worked happily and the girls even commented that it was easier than they thought it might be. John did well too. His cookies didn’t look anything like the zombies on the box, but he didn’t care. He was too busy eating them. He’d smear on some frosting, take a bite, squeeze on a little more and repeat. I decorated a couple too and I have to say that it was a lot of fun!
The kids were eating their zombies quicker than I could get pictures of them, so there aren’t many photos of our final works of art. Each one was bloodier and scarier than the last. While it might have been nice for the kit to yield a half dozen more cookies, I do appreciate that I wasn’t left with a dozen extra to decorate once the kids got bored. And we definitely don’t need two dozen cookies sitting around here. I am excited I get to hang on to the zombie cookie cutters to use in future years.
All in all, the Zombie Dance Party Cookie Kit was a fun way to spend an hour or so of the kids day off of school. If your kids aren’t up for preparing the dough, rolling and cutting them out, do that part yourself and call them in for decorating. That’s what I do on occasion when I make a large batch of cut out cookies. The kids thought it was great fun and, as you can see, they enjoyed eating them too! Thank you to Brand Castle for sharing with us your fun and yummy Zombie Dance Party Cookie Kit along with the Brains! Cupcake Kit and the Crispy Rice Pumpkin Kit. Kits like these are great for families looking for fun holiday baking activities and who need a little help with inspiration. I could see a busy parent using these to bake up treats for a Halloween party. I only hope that in the near future Brand Castle might begin providing kits with more healthful ingredients free of artificial colors and “fake” food. These days there is a growing number of parents who strive to “eat clean” and to teach their children to do the same. Of course, at Halloween we can all splurge a little and use it as an opportunity to teach our children about balance. In my opinion, if you are always saying “no” to your children, I fear that someday they will rebel and eat everything you hoped they would not. Sometime’s it’s good to say yes.
Visit www.brandcastle.com to see all the fun kits they offer and to find out where you can buy them.
Note: The baking kits featured in this post were provided to Running with Skissors by Brand Castle for my review.
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