Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Life has not flowed quietly in the last few weeks here. It has disturbed and jolted - as it sometimes does. I've found myself seeking out softness in colours, tones and textures to store up in the soul as a kind of buffer zone against the harsher, rawer realities of life.

I thought I'd gather a few of these soft snippets together here - less colourful than my usual hunting ground; perhaps even heading towards bland, but bland is occasionally good, I feel. If bland doesn't do it for you, at the moment, skip ahead to the recipe - the colours and textures fit with my "soft" focus but these little cookies are, though I say it myself, something of a knock-out. Anyway here are my snippets of "soft" for what they are worth:

March sunrise:

Pink and grey yarn ...

... for a pale, rose and silver, two-tone shawl:

(Pattern painstakingly deciphered from the Dutch in this book)

Downy feathers from the bantams:

There are rather fewer bantams than before, owing to a dog invading the garden and attacking them indiscriminately one afternoon last week, leaving the grass strewn with dead and dying birds. I cannot tell you how distressing this was. Nor how much I miss them. I can somehow cope with the idea of fox depredation attempts - they need to kill for food after all - but a dog killing and maiming our gentle, friendly birds for the sake of sport and spoil, I find pretty sickening.

Fragile, pink-tinged blossom against a misty white, morning sky:

Pastel tea-cup:

(on sale, heftily reduced in my local Waitrose - I can't resist big cups like this with pretty flowers inside, waiting like a delightful surprise for when I've drunk my tea, even though I know they're there all along. I know, I know, perhaps I should have entitled this post "soft in the head"!)

Warm and gentle colours and textures in the kitchen:

These Hazlenut Shortbreads are my own recipe and they have all that is good in a shortbread about them. By this, I mean they are tender, yet crunchy; plain but definitely not bland; they accompany a cup of tea perfectly on their own but also play second fiddle elegantly to fresh fruit salad or a homemade ice cream, or sorbet, by way of a more elaborate finish to a meal; they keep beautifully for several weeks in an air-tight tin; the dough behaves itself and rolls out cooperatively and if you cut it into shapes, they retain their definition nicely; they are moreish to a fault. What more can you ask?!

Here's the recipe:

This makes quite a big batch of shortbreads but you can easily halve it, if you want to make smaller quantities.

What you need:

8 oz (225 g) unsalted butter (weigh this out ahead of time - it needs to be room temperature)

4 oz (100 g) caster sugar

12 oz (350 g) plain white flour

4 oz (100g) ground rice (if you can't find this, use semolina, but ground rice is better)

2 tbsps hazlenut oil (you can find this in the salad-dressing oil section of most supermarkets)

2 tbsps Frangelico If you aren't familiar with Frangelico, it's a hazlenut flavoured liqueur that comes in a delightful brown bottle, shaped like a monk, complete with a rope cincture. Have a look here. I'd buy it for the whimiscal appeal of the bottle alone (I told you I was soft in the head!) but the contents are sublime - drink it in tiny glasses after a celebration meal. It's delicious on its own but also worth sparing a couple of spoonfuls to add to these shortbreads.
(If you don't have any Frangelico to hand you could use a couple of spoonfuls of sweet sherry or, if really pushed, milk, but you won't be adding the subtle depth of hazlenut flavour, of course, with these alternatives.)

4 oz (100 g) shelled hazlenuts, still in their papery skins, as in the pic below:

What you do:

First of all whizz up the hazelnuts, still in their papery skins in the food processor until they look like this:

Empty out of the food processor and set aside.

Now cream the softened butter and sugar together until really fluffy as in the pic:

Add the oil and whizz again.

Mix together the flour and ground rice and add to the food processor a bit at a time.

Add the ground hazlenuts and whizz on the pulse setting to mix. The mixture will begin to clump together but will still lack cohesiveness. As you can see:

Add the Frangelico, whizz briefly and miraculously your claggy, clumpy mixture will come together into a nice ball of dough!

Chill the dough for an hour or so in the fridge. If you're short of time you can skip this step but it does help the dough to behave nicely.

When you're ready to roll the dough out, preheat the oven to 150 C and line a couple of baking sheets with non-stick baking parchment.

Roll the dough out on a floured surface quite thickly. Aim for a depth of not less than a centimetre, or half an inch even.

Cut the shortbreads out with a round fluted cutter or in small heart shapes like these:

Simple shapes work best. Sometimes I make them as little crescent moons but nothing too intricate. Bake the shortbreads for 30 - 40 minutes depending on your oven. When they emerge, they should look lightly browned and crisp like this:

Eat one (or two!) as soon as they are cool enough not to burn your fingers! Cool the rest completely on a wire rack and store in an air-tight tin. Enjoy!

Wishing you softness in your week, should you need it.
E x


  1. What an amazing sunrise and beautiful soothing colours throughout. I feel your pain with the loss of the bantams. One of our ducks was savaged by a dog and I felt like pushing the dog's owner into the pond to retrieve the poor half eaten duck (when he finally turned up to claim his dog).
    Your hazelnut shortbread sounds delicious - another on my list to try.
    Wishing you a jolt free week ahead. Ax

    1. Thank you so much, Anne. I sympathise with your feeling re the dog owner and feel for your poor duck. These things happen so quickly and one just wishes one could see them coming and head them off at the pass but often one can't. E x

  2. Dear Mrs T., I send you as much softness and gentleness as I can..I remember pictures of your beautiful bantam ladies and I imagine how sad you must have been after the dog attack...
    A big big hug for you my friend

    P.S. I will try your cookie recipe as soon as possible !...and I love the colour combination of your shawl

    1. Merci tellement, Christiane. C'est la vie, je le sais, mais je me sens si triste que je ne pouvais pas empêcher ce qui s'est passé. La recette est vraiment bonne - je crois que tu l'aimeras! E x

  3. So sorry to hear about your poor bantams E - I hope some tranquility has returned to your home after such a horrible episode. Working with pink and grey yarn seems like a really good way to try and achieve a sense of calm and comfort. Your homemade shortbread biscuits will go a long way to help this too :)
    B x

    1. Thank you Bev! Yes, you are right - the therapeutic powers of yarn and homemade baking are good things to hang on to! E x

  4. So sorry to hear about you're hens, so sad must have been so very upsetting for you all. Such lovely gentle colours in this post with some very beautiful picture E I found them very soothing not bland at all, that sunrise is stunning, I hope life is treating you kinder this week
    Clare xx

    1. Thank you Clare. Glad you liked the pics - I find them soothing too. Hope you're having a good week. E x

  5. The pink and grey are so pretty together.

    Cookies look delicious!

    1. Yes, there's something very right about pink and grey together. Do give the cookies a go - they are indeed delicious! E x

  6. Dear Mrs T
    I'm so sorry to hear about your hens - life can be very cruel sometimes. I do like your soft colours though and the sunrise picture would look beautiful made in felt as the wool would just blend in together so perfectly. I really like your new cup too, especially that shade of blue. I do hope that life is a little kinder to you now.
    Best wishes (and lots of sympathy)

  7. Thank you Ellie - you are so right, life can indeed be cruel. Your idea of turning the sunrise into a felt picture is lovely - not sure I could bring it off! I might have a try though! E x

  8. Dearest E - So sorry that life has buffeted you over the last couple of sorry too about your beautiful birds.... perhaps we all need to come round for tea and lovely biscuits to cheer you up.... Much love xxx

  9. I don't know why but this post reminded me of a children's book I loved so much as a child. It is Frederick by Leo Lionni and is about a field mouse collecting the warmth of the sun and memories of colours for the winter to come. Just like you are enjoying the soft colours for comfort. I am probably not making any sense at all. Your photos are beautiful, very soothing I find. I am so sorry your chickens were killed by a dog, what an awful thing to happen. I am thinking of you. Cx

  10. Lovely choice of colours this combination of pink and silver and thanks for the recipe!
    All the best,

  11. Hi E, I was thinking about you and wondering where you were..... glad to see you posing. Lovely, pastel post! So sorry about your bantams - I agree, it is horrible to have to endure this for no 'point', as it were. Your crochet is absolutely beautiful, I love these shades together. Your shortbreads look and sound mouth-watering. I too picked up this cup in Waitrose - I thought it was lovely, but didn't buy it!

  12. Interesting hazelnut shortbreads. I must give them ago. I wonder if our Waitrose has the cups. I too love a cup of tea or coffee in a big cup. Sorry to hear about your bantams. I know how devasting it can be. We've had a few fox and badger attacks, but so far, touch wood, no dog attacks.

  13. Oh I am so sorry to hear about your beautiful bantams - I've mentioned before how much I love millefleur barbu d'uccles so I am particularly sad for you. Your recipe sounds lovely - I must try it, but maybe in a few weeks when I've lost a bit of the weight I've been regaining lately! Lucy x

  14. So very sorry to hear about your poor little hens. To come upon the sight you describe must have been distressing indeed… and still is I would imagine. Beautiful soft colours in this post, and your shortbread looks divine :)

  15. Oh E, I'm so sorry to hear about your girls, what a dreadful thing. I always find Spring an unsettling time, full of so much promise of things to come whilst trying to rid myself of all the things that are dragging me down (normally housework and admin!). Sunny days like today definitely help. Oh, and your shawl is divine - love those colours! Hugs x

  16. Dear Elizabeth, I am so sorry to hear about your chickens. I remember how gentle and sweet they were--and how your family doted on them. If I were near you, I would come visit and try to cheer you up a bit. Dennis raised chickens as a boy, as well as cows and rabbits, and sympathizes with you, as he has had similar experiences. I hope that your baking and crocheting offer some distraction and solace during this sad time and hope that this season passes soon. Sending lots of love and hugs, Liz

    PS I buy Frangelico around Christmas sometimes---I love the bottle, too. Thanks for posting what looks like a great recipe.

  17. That darn dog. I'm sorry that happened.

    We sip Frangelico with a bite of lemon beforehand and a lick of sugar's called yellow cake with chocolate frosting...odd that it tastes that way when there is no chocolate involved. ;-)

    The cookies look divine. Shortbread is my favorite.

  18. Soft pink and grey are one of my favourite combinations. That shawl is so pretty with the stitch you have chosen.
    Sorry to hear about your bantams, their feathers are so beautiful. What a good idea to bake some cookies. Wishing you a gentle week!

  19. What a very naughty dog! That's something my Mr. Colin would never do!
    Thank you for the recipe of the cookies, I was looking for a recipe for shortbread, to use my lovely cookie stamp" home made" and "made by mum"!
    You have a lovely blog! Should staring writing again on my own blog!
    Have a nice soft springtime!

  20. Hi...loving the pink and grey and the yummy looking biscuits...its been very Spring like hasn't it, made me do some spring cleaning.
    Hugs x

  21. Out of control dogs are a menace, so sorry about your bantams. The recipe sounds delicious, I'll be giving it a go. And I love the softest colours of the shawl, so subtle, wonderful.


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