My grandparents come from Celtic Galicia in Spain, and it’s the Celts we have to thank for creating my favourite celebration – Hallowe’en. I first experienced it properly aged 17, while on a school exchange programme to America.
Throughout October, my Las Vegas school was completely decorated and everyone came to class in costume, including the teachers. Garages were transformed into haunted houses. The stores were bursting with pumpkins, candy, skeletons and pointy hats. I was hooked.
My obsession evolved over the years and the theme is present in everything I do – how I dress, the way I decorate my house and, of course, my baking style, which fans of Bake Off will have seen when I was on the show last year.
I see beauty where others see darkness and my aim is to turn what was seen as a tacky and commercial holiday into a sophisticated and spiritual one. Starting with these delicious treats.
The Wicked Baker, by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, £12.99) is out now. Order a copy from books.telegraph.co.uk.
Prep time: 1 hour, plus chilling | Cooking time: 12-14 minutes
170g unsalted butter, at room temperature
90ml maple syrup
50g light-brown sugar
200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
1 tbsp cornflour
1 egg white
⅓ tsp vanilla extract
200g icing sugar, sifted, or as needed
Black sanding sugar
Red food colour
Beat the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.
Mix the flours and a quarter of a teaspoon of salt together in a bowl with a fork. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for one hour. I sometimes leave it overnight.
Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas mark 5 and line a baking tray with baking paper.
Roll the dough out on a floured surface and cut out shapes using a cookie cutter or a template. Place on the baking tray and bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges start to brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
To make royal icing, whisk the egg white until frothy, then stir in the vanilla extract. Slowly add the icing sugar, mixing until fully incorporated. If it’s too thick, add a little water. If it’s too thin, add more icing sugar, a little at a time. Brush some icing on the wings of the bat cookies and sprinkle with the black sanding sugar.
Colour some icing red and dot on to the cookies with a cocktail stick for the eyes, dragging the stick up to create a point. Repeat with uncoloured icing for the fangs, this time dragging the stick down.
Leave to set and eat the cookies within four days, perhaps with hot maple-sweetened milk.