Gone are the days when dumping a handful of popcorn or pennies into a trick-or-treater’s plastic pumpkin suffices for decent Halloween loot. Between homemade artisanal cupcakes and milk chocolate filled with peanut-butter mousse, it can be hard keeping up with the Joneses. But fear not, because we asked some of Washington’s best pastry chefs what they hand out when little ghosts and goblins come knocking.
Meghan Blair, Something Sweet
“We’re pretty traditional. It’s just a big tub of candy—definitely anything with peanut butter,” says Blair, who recently opened Something Sweet bakery in DC’s Cleveland Park. “I like the old-fashioned Mary Janes, which no kids like, so I get them at the end of the night.”
And if she were going to make something to hand out? “It’d be caramelized apples dumped in chopped candy or peanuts,” she says. Getting hungry? Here’s her recipe.
6 of your favorite apples
6 wooden sticks
1 package caramels, unwrapped
2 tablespoons milk
Chopped candy or nuts for garnish
Insert the sticks into the apples. Melt the caramels in the microwave for 2 minutes, stir the milk into them very quickly, and dip the apples in the caramel mixture. Place them on parchment paper to set for a minute, then dunk them into your favorite candy or topping.
Anthony Chavez, 2941
“I hand out the same thing to trick-or-treaters every year,” says Chavez, pastry chef at Falls Church’s 2941. “Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups—my favorite.”
Niel Piferoen, Locolat
“I usually give out pretty typical stuff like chocolate candy bars,” says Piferoen, chef/owner of the Adams Morgan chocolate shop and cafe Locolat. “But if I were making something for kids and had unlimited funds, it’d probably be chocolate-shaped in a pumpkin or other designs that have Halloween decor around it. I’d use good Belgian chocolate and not fill it with anything. My favorite chocolate depends on the mood, but I guess it might be bittersweet, 54-percent cocoa from Callebaut.”
Michelle Poteaux, Bastille
“I only give out candy that I like to eat—that way I can be stuck with it if there are leftovers,” says Poteaux, pastry chef at the Old Town bistro Bastille. “Some of my favorites are Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Paydays.”
If Poteaux were to make something on her own, she’d whip up some caramel popcorn: “It’s definitely not Cracker Jacks! My grandmother used to make it a lot. It’s like popped popcorn, but you put it in a brown bag and make a caramel on the stove.”
Here’s her family recipe:
Serves ten to twelve.
1½ cups brown sugar
1½ sticks butter
1⁄3 cup Karo light corn syrup
1½ teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
6 quarts popped popcorn
Put the popcorn in a brown paper grocery bag and set it aside. In a 2-quart bowl, cook the first four ingredients in the microwave on high for 2½ minutes. Stir well and cook on high another 2½ minutes. Remove from the microwave, add the baking soda, and stir well. Pour the caramel mixture into the paper bag of popped corn and shake well until the corn is covered. Close the bag and put it in the microwave for 1½ minutes. Shake the bag again. Place it back in the microwave and cook another 45 seconds on high. Shake it again. Place it back in the microwave and cook for 30 seconds on high. Remove and shake again.
Pour the corn into another brown paper grocery bag, which has been cut open, and separate it with a spoon (careful—it will be very hot). Let the popcorn cool completely, and store it in an airtight container.
Josh Short, Buzz Bakery
“I always hand out the good stuff, of course,” says Short, who’s in charge of sweets at Alexandria’s Buzz Bakery. “I’m all about the candy bar, and I don’t mean the little-bitty ones, either! I’d like to make a rendition of my favorite candy bar: the Skor bar. I always disliked the people who gave out popcorn and apples. I could never do that.”
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