Candy recipes, Bay area cupcake kits and pastry boxes

How will you celebrate Halloween this year? Watching horror movies while stuffing your face with

How will you celebrate Halloween this year? Watching horror movies while stuffing your face with store-bought candy? Creating a brief candy hunt for your downtrodden kids? Both?

Either way, take comfort in the cavity-free dentist’s report they’ll get six months from now. And the many Carol Baskin costumes you won’t have to see while treat-or-treating in the neighborhood.

Even without the door-to-door festivities, there are still ways to make this pandemic Halloween — and the official start of fall — a little joyful, especially for the younger set. Makers, bakers and other Bay Area creatives are answering the call for Halloween therapy with craft and cupcake kits, as well as homemade candy recipes to delight Halloweeners of all ages.

If you need inspiration, start with a Zoom class being offered by San Jose’s Playful People Productions. When the pandemic hit, the nonprofit theater company pivoted online in order to continue reaching its audience — kids and families. For Halloween, they’re offering Friday evening craft classes (Oct. 16, 23 or 30; $60 each) with prop master Caitlyn Nichols.

PPP will send you a crate of supplies and guide you through your choice of boo-tastic crafts, from making a creepy home display — think plaster hand and eyeballs — to learning how to do stage-worthy zombie and fantasy makeup. Classes are designed for kids ages 10 and older.

“Playful People is all about creative family fun,” says co-founder Katie D’Arcey. “Instead of heading out to find materials for awesome Halloween projects at home, our crates of supplies get shipped direct to participants. And our enthusiastic staff is excited to play and get creative with everyone over Zoom.”

With your home decorated and your face ghoulishly made up, you’ll be ready to get into the kitchen and make some treats. That’s what many bakers and pastry chefs with young kids are suggesting for families this Halloween — and it’s a good suggestion for treat lovers of any age.

“One thing we might do is make candy treat bags and drop them off at friends’ houses,” says Dessert First blogger Anita Chu, a pastry chef and cookbook author based in Millbrae.

Chu’s bags will likely be filled with multi-colored sweets, such as the fondant-like Homemade Candy Corn from her cookbook, “Field Guide to Candy: How to Identify and Make Virtually Every Candy Imaginable.” (Quirk, $16).

“You’re almost making an edible modeling clay,” she explains. “It’s definitely something that encourages kids’ creativity.”

Her deceptively simple Marbled Chocolate Lollipops, from her most recent cookbook, “Lollipop Love: Sweet Indulgence with Chocolate, Caramel, and Sugar” (Chronicle, $19), is another winner.

Chu’s daughter, Isabelle, 7, has been helping to make the chocolates-on-sticks since she was four. Mom melts white and bittersweet chocolates separately, using the double boiler method, and pours them into small, round lollipop molds.  Then Isabelle swirls the chocolates together with a toothpick.

“Letting them decorate the lollipops with Halloween sprinkles or edible glitter is the best part,” says Chu, who finds her best candy molds and edible decorations at Sugar N Spice in Daly City and Baking Arts in San Mateo. “Littler kids can help by putting the sticks in the lollipops.”

A simple meringue ghost provides crunch and contrast to a deep chocolate cupcake with chocolate ganache. (Anita Chu) 

More of a cupcake person? Look out. Chu’s Dark Chocolate and Ghostly Meringue Cupcakes are as decadent as they are adorable. Near-midnight black and covered with chocolate ganache, the mini cupcakes’ cute, crisp toppers — dotted with mini chocolate chip eyes, of course — provide “contrasting lightness and crunch,” Chu says.

And if you’re short on time, you can get a box of Halloween-themed gourmet pastries ($35), including Chocolate Kouign-Amman with Pumpkin Filling, from Manresa Bread in Campbell, Los Gatos and Los Altos. Halloween isn’t normally a big deal for the bakery, but head baker Avery Ruzicka thought it was important to do something special for this unprecedented Halloween.

“We thought a box of special pastries would add a little fun,” she says. “Most children will not be trick or treating. (The boxes) are meant for all our customers looking for a bit of holiday spirit in the form of chocolate.”

In the East Bay, you can pick up cupcake kits from James & The Giant Cupcake, which has three locations in Oakland. The standard kit ($25, available for pickup or DoorDash delivery) comes with six chocolate cupcakes, a container of orange-tinted buttercream frosting and four types of Halloween sprinkles. With the deluxe kit ($50), you get a dozen cupcakes with orange and green buttercreams, red caramel drizzle, extra sprinkles and a gag toy.

The kits are a Halloween twist on the basic cupcake kit founder-owner Eurydice Manning has been selling since the shelter-in-place started.

“People were depressed and they needed something to do at home,” says Manning, who plans to entertain her 5-year-old with one of the DIY kits.

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