Now we are approaching that time of the year when the days get shorter and darker, and, in a strange way, I enjoy it. I’ve been spending evenings knitting. Cats have been vying for my lap, and I have been holding my arms up in the air to knit as a cat falls asleep against me, snoring and twitching with dreams. The kitchen is cozy and I feel like an elf or hobbit in her burrow. At any rate, I have been enjoying the coziness. The other day I baked up a batch of Aunt Hanna’s Cookies, which are Finnish. These are easy, but their very simplicity means that you must be a stickler about the ingredients. Use the real butter, the cake flour, and the cream for best results. I have no idea who Aunt Hanna was, but I do like her cookies!
The recipe comes from The Great Scandinavian Baking Book by Beatrice Ojakangas. I have cut it in half to yield 36 cookies.
Aunt Hanna’s Cookies
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup half and half or whipping cream
1 tablespoon brandy
Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and cover a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pick out 36 nice dried cranberries, place in a small bowl and stir in the brandy. Microwave for about 40 seconds. Stir them, and microwave briefly again. These cranberries will be used to top the cookies, though this is my own idea, not Aunt Hanna’s.
Cream the butter and sugar thoroughly. Mix the flour with the baking powder, and add to the butter mixture, a little at a time. The mixture will be sandy. Blend in the cream until a stiff dough forms. Set aside briefly while you tidy up. Using one teaspoon of dough, roll into 36 little balls, and place on baking sheet. Press a brandied dried cranberry on top of each dough ball.
Bake for 10 minutes or until very light golden and set. Cool, and then store in a cookie tin overnight before eating.
Baking notes: When I first tasted one of these cookies straight from the oven, I was underwhelmed. They seemed floury. The thing is to allow them to cool completely, store in a tin, and let them pull themselves together. Next day, they will taste like little butter bombs. As noted, the brandied dried cranberries were my idea–the original cookies called for almond halves or glaceed cherries. The brandied cranberry is tarter, and I like it more.
As well as baking, I’ve been knitting Christmas ornaments. I have a book called Christmas Decorations from Williamsburg’s Folk Art Collection (a wonderful book, full of old-fashioned ornaments to make), and, using deep red nubby sport weight yarn, I knitted a bell. It was so much fun, I went on to knit a gauntlet mitten, and a tasseled heart. These are good projects for using up wool odds and ends–you could knit them in forest green or ivory white. Or in multicolors! My yarn was a nubby sport weight and I used size 1 and 2 needles. I hate to admit how old this yarn is–it came from Tahki, and cost $3.65 a skein, back when yarn was affordable. You can go larger by using knitted worsted and size 5 or 6 needles.
Following are the patterns and links.
Knitted Yarn Bell
Cast on 14 stitches.
Row 1: K 10, P 4.
Row 2: K 14 (right side).
Repeat these two rows until you have 22 ridges (44 rows) ending with a K 14 row.
Bind off, leaving a 12-inch strand of yarn. Sew cast on and bound off edges together. The bottom of the bell has a border of stockinette stitch. To form the top of the bell, thread the tapestry needle with the 12-inch strand of yarn, and run it through every other stitch, pulling tightly. Use rest of yarn strand to make a loop.
I also made a little wool tassel, and sewed it to the loop to finish it off.
The pattern for this gauntlet mitten can be found at Knitting on the Net.com. I used the same nubby homespun yarn as the bell, and size two needles. To form a loop to hang the mitten, I tripled a strand of yarn, six-seven inches in length, and pulled one end through the top side of the mitten, and knotted it. Then I pulled the other ends through the other size, and knotted it. Then I trimmed the knots.
I used a garter stitch heart pattern from Woman’s Weekly to make this hanging heart pocket. Make two of the hearts, and then make a tassel. Sandwich the tassel between the hearts, and sew them together, leaving an opening at top as shown. Make a hanging loop with a couple strands of 6-7 inch yarn.
Birds seem to be hunkering down, and I haven’t seen any for a few days–not a feather. But I did see this cardinal about a week ago. Love to see his bright red color. Peace to you. Fran