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:
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:
(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?!
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:
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.
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.