Halloween isn’t just about cute costumes and trick-or-treating. Free candy aside, the fretfully festive holiday is also the perfect time to get in the kitchen and create homemade treats that are perfectly frightening in both taste and decor. One of our favorite — and easiest — ways to do this is by dying various baked goods a deep, inky black. If you’re interested in tinting your Halloween cookies, cakes and more a true shade of black this October, we have a few do’s and don’ts for you to keep in mind. Keep reading to see how you can impress all your little ghouls and goblins this Halloween.
One of the most accessible and easiest products to tint food black is food dye. There are a variety of brands, including Wilton and McCormick, that make black-colored food coloring in both a liquid and gel consistency. Black food gel will allow you to achieve a true black color much quicker than liquid food coloring (just a couple drops will do!). Both products are pretty widely available at baking/craft stores and online. If you can’t find black, you can also mix equal parts red, blue and green food dye — the result is a deep, black hue. Use black food dye for tinting royal icing and frosting, like the one used on the adorable face on this Easy Ghost Cake (see photo above).
If you’re looking for a less processed, naturally occurring food product to tint your food black, squid ink is a great option. Squid ink (or cephalopod ink) is a dark, blue-ish back ink that’s stored in a squid’s ink sac and is released to deter predators, and it can be extracted and used to tint various foods black. Squid ink is a great option for savory dishes, such as Antonia Lofaso’s Black Squid Ink Tempura Fish and Chips and Anne Burrell’s Squid Ink Risotto (see photo above), because it’s very briney and loaded with umami flavor, which pairs perfectly with seafood and pasta. This may not be the best option for vegetarians, as it comes from a sea creature, but it could be a great option for meat-eaters. You can purchase squid ink from fish markets and specialty grocery stores in a small, refrigerated container, which makes it convenient for storing.
Black cocoa powder is a Dutch processed cocoa powder that’s heavily alkalised, resulting in a rich, black color that tints many baked goods a true, deep shade of black. Like other Dutch processed cocoa powders, this is beautifully bitter in flavor and unsweetened, so make sure to add other sweeteners in your baked goods for a balance of flavor. You can purchase black cocoa at a variety of baking stores and online. If you need some recipes to get you started, try these Black Cocoa Cake Doughnuts (see top of article) or this Black Chocolate Cake (see photo above) for this year’s Halloween festivities.
This inky-colored seed grows inside pods in tropical climates around the world. It’s similar to its counterpart, the beige-colored sesame seed, but differs in taste — it’s more toasty and pleasantly bitter. This makes it a favorite for chefs around the world, particularly in Asia, where it is mainly produced. This incredibly versatile ingredient is often used in marinades for meat throughout Korea and Japan. It can be seen coating a roll of sushi, sprinkled on your bagel or in salad dressing. But its most popular use is in slightly sweet desserts throughout Asia. In Japan, black sesame or kurogama, is used to flavor and color their famous soft-serve ice cream, similar to this Black Sesame Ice Cream (see photo above) from Food Network Kitchen. It’s also used to coat and flavor mochi, a glutinous rice cake popping up in dessert aisles of American supermarkets. For those with a sweet tooth, you can use black sesame powder to dye neutral colors, like cupcake batter, frosting or meringue. For an even easier use in your own kitchen, simply crush the sesame and sprinkle it over ice cream for a perfectly toasty, bitter topping.
You’ve maybe seen cocktails, smoothies and juice bars using activated charcoal — creating beautifully black beverages. However, it might not be the best to consume in large quantities, as it can react negatively to some medications. There’s even some evidence that it can cause digestive issues. Activated charcoal is a charcoal made in the presence of gas, which gives the charcoal pores that can trap chemicals. Charcoal can be made from wood, peat, and commonly, coconut shells. All in all, it’s hard to judge exactly how your body will process the charcoal, so it’s best to consume sparingly so you don’t have an adverse reaction. Lets leave this product behind and opt for one of the other safer options mentioned above!