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Sweet and Spicy Treats for Halloween

Pour a dessert wine and bake up these moist, homey, seasonal pumpkin spice cookies

Laurie Woolever
Posted: October 24, 2014

Americans have gone wild in the past few years for the notion of "pumpkin spice," which has little to do with actual pumpkins and everything to do with cinnamon and sugar. From cookies and coffee concoctions to distilled spirits, chewing gum and even dog treats, pumpkin spice-flavored products have reached ubiquity. It's easy, however—and far more satisfying—to bake a version of pumpkin spice cookies at home.

The recipe below makes a lightly sweet cookie, an antidote to cloying candy corn and the other excesses of Halloween. It calls for acorn squash, but you may substitute an equal amount of cooked butternut squash or actual pumpkin. The almond flour gives the cookies an additional tenderness and a slight nutty flavor, but is not essential and may be be replaced with another 1/4 cup of all-purpose flour or whole-wheat flour.

For those who like extra stuff in their cookies, a few handfuls of slivered almonds, chopped dried apples, raisins, shredded coconut or chocolate chips would be fine additions, especially if they echo the notes in the dessert wine you'll want to pour when entertaining grown-up trick-or-treaters. We've provided a selection of recently rated recommended dessert wines below. Happy Halloween!

Halloween Spice Cookies

  • 1 acorn squash
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter or lard, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • Freshly grated nutmeg to taste (use sparingly)

1. Cut the squash in half across the center and scoop out the seeds in the center. (You may wish to dry and roast them.) Place the squash halves cut side down in a strainer or steamer basket and steam, covered, over boiling water until very tender and easily pierced with the tip of a paring knife, about 15 to 20 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, scoop the cooked flesh from the shells and mash or purée it. Measure out 1 cup of squash to be used for this recipe, and refrigerate or freeze any extra, or serve it for dinner, seasoned with salt and pepper and topped with butter or olive oil.

2. Preheat oven to 350º F. Line a sheet tray with parchment paper or spray with non-stick cooking spray.

3. Place the sugar and butter or lard into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Cream the ingredients together on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add the squash and eggs and beat on medium speed for 1 minute.

4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the all-purpose and almond flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg. Combine the flour and squash mixtures and mix well by hand or with a wooden spoon.

5. Place heaping tablespoons of the dough about 2 inches apart on the sheet tray. Bake in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the tray halfway through. Makes 2 dozen cookies.

RECOMMENDED DESSERT WINES

Note: The following list is a selection of outstanding and very good wines from recently rated releases. More wines can be found in our Wine Ratings Search.

DISZNÓKÓ´ Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos 2006 Score: 94 | $49 / 500ml
Intense and elegant at once, this is smooth, harmonious and vibrant. The citrus pâte de fruit, apple and lemon candy flavors are long and permeating. Terrific focus. Drink now through 2018. 2,144 cases made. —B.S.

BODEGAS REY FERNANDO DE CASTILLA Pedro Ximénez Jerez Premium NV Score: 93 | $26
This marries rich and racy aspects, with dark ganache, roasted walnut, espresso and toffee notes offset by green tea, powdered ginger and toasted pecan flavors. The long finish is beautifully coiled. Drink now. 1,500 cases made. —J.M.

DE BORTOLI Sémillon New South Wales Noble One Botrytis 2011 Score: 92 | $32 / 375ml
This is rich, sweet and expressive, deftly balancing apricot, honey and clotted cream flavors against an open texture and refined acidity. Lingers delicately. Drink now through 2021. 4,000 cases made. —H.S.

LIONEL OSMIN Jurançon Foehn 2010 Score: 92 | $30
Luxuriant and very creamy, this is filled with hazelnut, roasted pineapple and peach cobbler flavors. Offers a luscious mouthfeel, with toasted coconut and honeysuckle notes that linger into the long, rich finish. Drink now through 2025. 1,500 cases made. —K.M.

INNISKILLIN Vidal Blanc Niagara Peninsula Ice Wine 2012 Score: 91 | $60 / 375ml
The dessert white exudes apricot, apple, celery and light caramel flavors. Bright acidity keeps this balanced and light on the long, mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2018. 6,693 cases made. —B.S.

EMILIO LUSTAU Pedro Ximénez Jerez San Emilio Solera Reserva NV Score: 91 | $29
Delivers the weight you expect from a PX, but with fresher cut. The singed walnut, brown bread, ginger, ganache and Turkish coffee notes are allied to a mouthwatering spearmint and treacle spine. Features good energy through the finish to match the mouthcoating feel. Drink now. 1,500 cases imported. —J.M.

CHAMBERS Muscat Rutherglen Rosewood Vineyards NV Score: 90 | $16 / 375ml
This silky, sweet version is the color of dark tea, with banana notes around the core of caramel, chocolate and cherry, finishing with moderate intensity. Drink now. 1,000 cases imported. —H.S.

FINCA ANTIGUA Moscatel La Mancha 2013 Score: 89 | $23 / 375ml
This sweet white offers spicy vanilla, mulled pear and candied orange flavors in a thick texture, with enough tangerine acidity to stay fresh. Well-balanced through the juicy finish. Drink now. 2,080 cases made. —T.M.

QUINTA DAS CARVALHAS Tawny Port 20 Year Old NV Score: 89 | $29
Velvety and lush, with notes of cinnamon and maple to the bright plum, cherry and boysenberry flavors. Almond and citrus zest accents linger on the crisp, spicy finish. Drink now. 2,500 cases made. —K.M.

M. CHAPOUTIER Banyuls 2012 Score: 89 | $29 / 500ml
A sweet, juicy red, with cherry tart and mincemeat flavors that feature some stemmy notes. Spice, cream and milk chocolate accents emerge on the rich finish. Drink now through 2030. 1,163 cases imported. —K.M.

D. KOURTAKIS Muscat Samos Kourtaki NV Score: 89 | $13
Redolent of apricot and dried pineapple, this sweetie is full of rich, spicy notes. The honeyed finish features a lush creaminess. Drink now through 2022. 300,000 cases made. —K.M.

CHÂTEAU PAJZOS Tokaji H 2011 Score: 89 | $15 / 500ml
Pear, lanolin and spice flavors mingle with the vibrant structure and supple texture. This is lightly sweet, offering a mouthwatering finish. Drink now through 2016. 3,000 cases made. —B.S.

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