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Sweet and Spooky Halloween | Peggy Cullen

With witch-hat cookies, spider-webbed chocolate cake and Bubbling Cauldron cocktails, pastry genius Peggy Cullen and her friends celebrate Halloween in the Berkshires.

"Baking is mysterious, and I like that," says Peggy Cullen. "You don't know what you're going to get until it comes out of the oven." Cullen, the owner of the confectionary company Lucky Star Sweets and the author of Caramel and Got Milk? The Cookie Book, loves mystery almost as much as she loves baking and candymaking—a fact she proved recently at a great, grown-up Halloween party.

Cullen and her husband, Andy Matlow, live in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, where in fall the foliage turns brilliant shades of red, yellow and orange. The couple built their house to resemble an old New England Victorian, using hundred-year-old chestnut doors and installing a large deck and covered porch off the kitchen. "When we have a party, people spill into all these spaces," Cullen says. "It's really wonderful."

Cullen's Halloween recipes showcased her quirky creativity. "When I think of Halloween, I think of caramel," Cullen says. "There's something about the warmth of the flavor and color that inspires me." She used buttery caramel to coat tiny lady apples from Windy Hill Farm, a local orchard with different types of apple trees in each row. She picked pumpkins at nearby Taft Farms for her meringue-topped pie decorated with "windblown and witchy-looking" leaves made of pastry. To accompany her sweets, she served a duo of drinks, including a Bubbling Cauldron cocktail of Champagne and pear nectar topped with pear "eyeballs." To anyone perplexed about how to pair wines with desserts, she offers this rule: "Always make sure your drink is sweeter than your dessert." Mystery solved.

Pairing Wines and Desserts
The two cocktails at right will match nicely with the array of Halloween desserts in this story. Alternately, an all-purpose, full-bodied fortified wine will complement the diverse flavors and range of sweetness. Try either the 2003 Quady Essensia Orange Muscat from California, which has tangy hints of orange and bright acidity, or nutty, spicy Niepoort 10 Years Old Tawny Porto.

Published October 2004
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