Birds, Cookies and Snowflakes

IMG_6499Birds are starting to find the new feeder, and this goldfinch posed on it for just a moment, fluffing her feathers in the cold.

IMG_6525This just in. Apparently the new feeder is not squirrel proof! Don’t know why I thought it would be, but the narrow rim around the feeder didn’t seem large enough to support a squirrel. But the squirrel mind thinks differently.

I’ve been baking, and after looking at some shortbread cookie recipes, came up with a good formula. It looks like the ratio of two sticks of butter (half a pound) to 2-1/4 cups flour works well. I also deviated from the usual instructions, as I like shortbread that is a bit on the thin and crispy side, with brown edges, rather than the ivory pallor usually recommended. And then when I rolled out the dough, I cut it into small squares to fit in a blue and white tin that I have. And I rolled the dough out on a surface dusted with sugar, and sprinkled the dough with sugar, so it glistens like snow in the moonlight.  It’s the little things.


Crispy Shortbread

Makes about two dozen small cookies.

1 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar plus extra for rolling out the dough
2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Mix the butter with the sugar with your hands. Stir in flour, working it in with your fingertips, and kneading it a bit to make it cohesive. Allow the dough to sit for 15 minutes while you tidy up. Roll out on a surface sprinkled with sugar to 1/8 to 1/4″ inch. Lightly sprinkle with sugar to prevent sticking. I liked the 1/8″ because the resultant cookie was crisp. I cut out 1-3/4″ squares to fit into the tin, but you could use cookie cutters, or cut into fingers. Bake for about 12 minutes on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Baking notes: I found that you can re-roll the dough scraps, but the resultant cookie is a bit less tender. Not bad, but there is a difference. You can use salted butter–it’s a mellower flavor, but I like the fresh flavor of the unsalted. One of the tricks to making shortbread is keeping the butter cool and just slightly softened. It’s easier to use when very soft, but the moisture released from the softened butter reacts with the flour’s gluten to toughen the dough. So, ideally, the butter, your hands, and the kitchen are on the cool side when making shortbread.


Antique blue-and-white tin
Antique blue-and-white tin

Somewhere in the wilds of the Internet, I saw a picture of a crocheted snowflake made with red crochet cotton, not the usual white, and thought how nice it looked. Then I found a pattern in an old clipping from Crochet World Omnibus, Christmas Edition, circa 1973, for small snowflakes. I made a few up with the red thread, and thought how fun they would be for package decorations or Christmas trees. Here’s how it looks.


And here’s the pattern:

Little Red Snowflake

Use size 10 red crochet cotton. This is a medium weight thread. Knit Cro Sheen by Coats and Clark can be used.

Chain 4, join with a slip stitch and chain 1.

Round 1: 10 single crochet in ring, join with slip stitch.

Round 2: Chain 3 and make 2 double crochet in same stitch, skip 1 single crochet, chain 5 and 3 double crochet in next stitch. Repeat around to make 5 clusters of double crochet with a chain between.

Round 3: Join with slip stitch between first chain 3 and first double crochet, chain 3, slip stitch in next space between double crochets, chain 3 and slip stitch in center stitch of chain 5, chain 3 and slip st in same stitch, chain 3, repeat around. End off.


Hope your week is a good one. Namaste. Fran


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