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Hallowe'en party food to die for; Cast a spell over your friends this Hallowe'en. Party organiser Polly Betton tells Sarah O'Meara how to turn this grave celebration into a grown-up feast.

Byline: Sarah O'Meara

THERE'S a dark cloud settling over Britain. No one's in the mood for fluffy bunnies or children's clowns. A new survey has revealed that when it comes to partying, Hallowe'en is now our second favourite family celebration, behind Christmas, ahead of Easter and even birthday parties.

As household incomes shrink, the opportunity to send your kids out begging for sweets may suddenly seem more attractive. But more probably, the popularity of Twilight and Harry Potter has finally put witches, werewolves and vampires into the official party lead.

But instead of spending all that money on plastic skull masks and pumpkins, event organiser Polly Betton suggests using your portion of the pounds 280 million reportedly spent in Britain each year on Halloween, to have some bad, clean adult fun.

"Don't make it cute," advises Betton, author of Party! How To Organise A Brilliant Bash. "A grown-up Halloween is not fluffy, so abandon that in favour of almost anything else. This is not the moment for adorable ghost-shaped biscuits, twee gift bags or dressing up like a fairy."

Try Polly Betton's recipes to get your party started...

Chocolate 'earth' with edible flowers, served with a trowel (serves 6) This pudding is great fun, a wonderful talking point and absolutely delicious. Your Chocolate 'Earth' is a moreish chocolate crunch that's a little like a cheesecake base, with a piquant hint of salt. Serve in a garden container. (NB: buy new containers from a garden centre and wash thoroughly before use.) Ingredients: 125g caster sugar, 125g ground almonds, 75g plain flour, 50g cocoa powder, a large pinch of salt, 65g melted butter, edible flowers For the chocolate custard: 600ml milk, 190ml double cream, 3tbsp cocoa powder, 4 egg yolks, 100g caster sugar, 11/2tbsp cornflour Method: Preheat the oven to 150C/gas mark 2. Mix the dry ingredients, then beat in the butter with an electric mixer. Pour in 200ml water in stages, beating as you go, until you have a smooth, glossy batter.

Use a palette knife to spread thinly onto a parchment-lined baking tray. Bake for around 15 minutes, being careful not to let it burn. Leave to cool in the pan, then crumble into your garden container and decorate with edible flowers.

For the custard, pour the milk and the cream into a pan, gently heat to a simmer and then set aside. Beat together the cocoa powder, egg yolks, sugar and cornflour with an electric mixer on a medium speed until you have a nice, smooth mixture (you can loosen it up with a splash of the warm milk if you need to). Continue to beat as you slowly pour in the warm milk, then return the whole lot to the saucepan. Stir constantly over a medium-low heat (don't let it boil, or even simmer). The custard should thicken beautifully; it's ready when it coats the back of a spoon.

Serve the custard in small watering cans (the type usually used for houseplants, also new and clean) with the sprinkler heads removed. If you're worried it's too thick to pour from the watering cans, whisk in some more milk to thin it.

To complete the look, you should provide trowels (also brand new and washed) for guests to serve themselves.

Pan de muerto "bread of the dead" (serves 20) Ingredients: 125g butter, 125ml milk, 550g plain flour, 2tsp dry yeast, 1tsp salt, 1tbsp anise seeds, 190g caster sugar, 4 eggs, 190ml orange juice, 2tbsp orange zest, icing sugar, to decorate Method: Pop the butter, milk and 125ml water in a pan over a medium heat until the butter has melted and the mixture is nearly boiling. Take off the heat and set aside.

Put 165g of the flour into a mixing bowl with the yeast, salt, anise seeds and 95g sugar and mix together.

Once combined, gradually beat in the warm milk mixture, followed by the eggs and another 125g of the flour. Keep adding in flour until it forms a soft ball of dough that's not sticky when prodded.

Put the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes until it's nice and elastic.

Pop into a lightly greased bowl, turn it a couple of times so it's well coated, cover and set aside in a warm spot to rise. It should take about an hour and a half to double in size.

Punch the dough down and form into simple skull and bone shapes - make a whole skeleton if you've got the attention span!

Cover with a tea towel and return to the warm spot to rise for another hour. Pop the oven on at 180C/gas mark 4 to preheat.

Once the second rising is done, bake the bread for 40 minutes, or until golden and cooked through.

Meanwhile, make up the glaze by putting 95g sugar, the orange juice and the zest into a pan.

Bring to the boil and keep going for two minutes.

Apply to the bread fresh out of the oven while still warm.

Sprinkle with icing sugar before the glaze is set.

CAPTION(S):

GROWN-UP PARTY FOOD: Chocolate earth served with a trowel and, inset, bread of the dead
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Article Type:Recipe
Date:Oct 27, 2011
Words:862
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