Wicked bakes for Halloween fright feasts with Bake Off’s Helena Garcia

PUBLISHED: 10:55 01 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:23 20 October 2020

Helena is inspired by al lthings spooky to create her imaginative dishes

Helena is inspired by al lthings spooky to create her imaginative dishes

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RECIPE: Leeds-based Bake Off contestant Helena Garcia brings you ghoulish recipes for spooky feasts

Bat biscuitsBat biscuits

Cakes and treats to die for. So says the title of Helena Garcia’s ravishing new cook book, Wicked!

The cover picture hints of mischief, menace and a bit of sass thrown in – just what you would expect really from Helena Garcia, the Leeds-based cook who we saw in the Great British Bake Off finals last year.

Eccentric and unexpected, her creative spirit earned her lots of love from viewers and her new book hits the shelves perfectly pitched for Halloween gatherings and afternoon teas with a spooky side.

Helena spent hours in her home in North Leeds perfecting her recipes, often with toddler Flora by her side.

Slime.....Slime.....

‘Since I was a teenager, I have been fascinated with all things strange and obscure. Learning that most of our festivals and celebrations come from pagan traditions opened a whole new world for me when I was younger,’ she says.

‘Halloween is a holiday which brings me immense joy throughout the year. It is present in everything I do, how I dress, the way I decorate my house and, of course, my baking style.’

Helena first experienced Halloween when she was 17 and pent her last year of high school in Las Vegas.

‘Throughout October the school was completely decorated, and everyone came to class in costume, including the teachers. The stores were bursting with pumpkins, candy, skeletons and pointy hats. I was hooked,’ she laughs.

Pumpkin cookiesPumpkin cookies

The obsession evolved throughout the years and when she was given the opportunity to take over a Victorian-style apothecary in Leeds, cauldrons and potion bottles started appearing on its antique mahogany shelves.

‘My aim has always been to turn what was seen as a tacky and commercial holiday into a sophisticated and spiritual one. Ultimately, Halloween is European and it’s time to bring it back home and reclaim it,’ she says.

‘I love cooking in general, but baking feels like cooking with added creative possibilities. Most of the baking projects in this book have a spooky decorative touch, but not all. There are recipes for all skill levels, from simple cookies to an elaborate four-layer haunted tree cake.’

Wicked Baker Book Cover The Wicked Baker by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, £12.99)Wicked Baker Book Cover The Wicked Baker by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, £12.99)

Maple Bat Cookies:

I came back from a recent trip to Canada full of ideas for maple-flavoured goodies. These cheeky bat

cookies were one of the first things I tried and I was so pleased with the result – crispy and buttery with a wonderful maple flavour. Make a little rectangular slit in the bottom of some of them so they can sit on the rim of your favourite teacup, but be careful – these bats can quickly fly away.

MAKES ABOUT 24

Ingredients:

170g unsalted butter, at room temperature

90ml maple syrup

50g light brown sugar

200g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 Tbsp cornflour

1/4 tsp salt

To decorate:

1/3 quantity Royal Icing

black sanding sugar

red food colour

Method:

Beat the butter, maple syrup and brown sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy.

Mix the flours and salt together in a bowl with a fork.

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix until fully incorporated, making sure to scrape the sides and base of the bowl. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 1 hour. I sometimes leave it overnight.

Preheat the oven to 170°C fan [375°F/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 bat cookie cutter or a template. Place on the prepared baking tray and bake for 12–14 minutes until the edges start to brown. Leave to cool on a wire rack.

Brush some royal icing on the wings and sprinkle with the black sanding sugar.

Colour some royal icing red. Dip a cocktail stick in the red icing and dot onto the cookie 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.

Slime Pudding

This is one of my favourite desserts and it just takes a few ingredients plus a little food colour. Keep tasting the mixture when adding the citrus juice so you can adjust to your taste. I like it rather tangy, so I add a lot of juice. It is so easy yet so effective as a dessert for a ghoulish dinner party.

SERVES 6

Ingredients

400g can condensed milk

400g plain Greek yogurt

juice of 3 limes

juice of 2 lemons

leaf green food colour

yellow food colour

Method:

Using a handheld electric whisk, mix the condensed milk and yogurt together in a large bowl. Mix the lime and lemon juices together, then slowly pour in enough for your taste.

The mixture will thicken. Add some leaf green colour and a few drops of yellow to achieve a slimy hue.

Cover the bowl with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours, or ideally overnight.

Serve cold in 6 individual glasses or cauldrons.

Read Bake Off Kim Joy’s favourite things in Yorkshire here

Pumpkin and Pecan Cookies

Pumpkin and pecan are two of my most favourite flavours. These cookies are a mixture of pumpkin pie and pecan butter cookies and are the perfect accompaniment for a Pumpkin Spice Latte (in Wicked cookbook) on a rainy afternoon.

MAKES 24

Ingredients

125g shelled pecans, chopped

2 tbsp salted butter, melted

170g unsalted butter, softened

170g light brown sugar

200g pumpkin purée

2 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

260g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp ground nutmeg

pinch of ground cloves

1/2 tsp salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 170°C fan [375°F/Gas mark 5] and line a baking tray with baking paper.

Coat the pecans with the melted butter in a bowl. Spread out on the prepared baking tray and bake for 5–7 minutes until they start to toast. Leave to cool. Keep the oven on.

Cream the softened butter and sugar together in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add the pumpkin purée, vanilla and egg and continue mixing.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, spices and salt into a separate bowl, then slowly add it to the wet ingredients.

Add the cooled pecans and mix to form a dough.

Form balls of around 2 tbsp of dough and place them on a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Bake for 10–12 minutes. They will look slightly undercooked when you take them out, but they will harden a little as they cool. Transfer to a wire rack to cool and eat within four days.

The Wicked Baker by Helena Garcia (Quadrille, £12.99) Photography ©Patricia Niven

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