Originally published Oct. 16, 2016, in the Concord Monitor‘s LiveWell
Halloween is a season for all things creepy and crawly, slithery and slimy. Can’t you just start to feel the hair on your arms and the back of your neck start to stand on end? Houses will be covered in pumpkins, scarecrows, vampires, monsters and more. Ghouls and goblins will wander through the streets. All sorts of horror films will be featured on TV.
Why not bring a little fear factor to the dessert table?
With eight fuzzy legs and venom-shooting fangs, spiders aren’t usually what people hope to find on their cookies. But these spider cookies probably won’t spook anyone. They are creepy, cute and delicious.
The cookies are simple to make, too. Get the kids involved unwrapping (and snacking on) the peanut butter cups, rolling the dough balls, adding the candies to the cookies and decorating the eyes and legs.
These little guys take a classic cookie and make it doubly peanut buttery.
This is a peanut butter lover’s dream. The cookie is a crunchy peanut base, and the peanut butter cup adds a rich, creamy texture.
The cookie base is a classic peanut butter blossom, which first came on the scene in the 1950s during a Pillsbury baking competition; it took second place. Hershey’s later popularized the recipe by printing it on its Kiss packages. It’s been a favorite ever since.
The spider cookie recipe replaces the Kiss with a minature Reese’s peanut cup, which gives it an extra peanut-buttery kick.
Note that there is a difference between miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups and fun-size peanut butter cups, which are full size and wrapped individually. Both can be found during the lead-up to Halloween. The miniature cups are more intended as candy dish filler. The larger, plastic-wrapped peanut butter cups are better for handing out to trick-or-treaters.
The candy eyes used in the recipe can be found at cake decorating supply stores or in the baking section of craft stores. I was also able to get the jet black cookie icing in the same aisle at the candy eyes. You could go ahead and make your own icing or frosting if you wanted, using a piping bag to apply.
If your peanut butter cups melt enough, you may be able to simply press the eyes into the chocolate. If they are well-frozen still, the icing can work as a glue to hold them on.
These are spiders you’ll be sad to see scurry away.
½ cup shortening
¾ cup peanut butter
cup granulated sugar, plus for rolling
cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1½ cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 package of miniature Reese’s peanut butter cups (about 30 to 40 pieces)
Candy eyeballs (about 60 to 80)
Black cookie icing or frosting
Unwrap all the peanut butter cups and put in a bowl. Place bowl in freezer. This will keep the peanut butter cup from melting too much when placed on top of the hot cookies.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Beat together shortening, peanut butter and both sugars until fluffy. Add the egg, milk and vanilla and mix again.
In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add the flour mixture to the peanut butter mixture until well combined.
Roll dough into 1-inch balls with your hands or use a 1 tablespoon melon-baller to form the cookies.
Coat each ball with the granulated sugar you’ve set aside.
Place the balls on an ungreased cookie sheet and lightly press down on each with two fingers to partially flatten it.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes.
Once you remove from the oven, immediately press a peanut butter cup in the center of the cookie.
Using the black icing, affix two candy eyes to one side of the peanut butter cup. Then use the icing to draw legs. Spiders have eight legs, but sometimes only six fit on the cookie.
Makes about 35 cookies.