Nesting Instinct

I was taking a walk the other morning when I found a bird’s nest in the wet grass, fallen during the previous night’s storm. It was like finding a galaxy swirling at my feet, and I was taken by surprise. I was pretty sure all of its inhabitants were long gone, and I brought it home to study. There are two things I always notice about nests: how incredibly soft they are, and how I could never make one. The delicacy of the weaving, strand by strand, is beyond my clumsy human fingers.

To learn more about nests, I have been reading Roger Tory Peterson’s Field Guide to Eastern Birds’ Nests, and hope to find more abandoned nests to examine. The perfect accompaniment to the endeavor is (of course) the following Scandinavian Bird’s Nest cookies. This is an heirloom-quality recipe that is just delicious. The nuts are crunchy, the jam tart, and the cookie melts in your mouth. Yum! I like to use a fruit spread for this, as it is less sugary than jam.

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Scandinavian Bird’s Nest Cookies

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Cookies ready for the oven.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg, separated
1 cup flour
1/2 cup finely chopped nuts
3 tablespoons jam or all fruit spread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter, brown sugar and egg yolk until smooth and fluffy. Add flour, mixing in with fingertips. Shape into 1-inch balls. In a small bowl, beat egg white slightly. Dip balls into egg white, then into chopped nuts, coating completely. Place 1-1/2 inches part on prepared baking sheet. With the end of a wooden spoon, make a deep impression in the center of each cookie. Bake 13 to 15 minutes. Bottoms should be light golden brown. While cooling, place a small amount of jam into the depression in each cookie. Makes 24 cookies.

Original recipe is from Cookies by Natalie Haranov Haughton.

Baking note: Be sure to taste a nut before using. I purchased some hazelnuts this morning, and found that they had an “off” taste. I contacted the manufacturer by email–thought they should know there was a problem. I always store leftover nuts in the freezer to prevent deterioration. Fortunately I had some slivered almonds and was able to use them.

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2 thoughts on “Nesting Instinct

  1. I remember seeing a show on TV on bird”s nests. Some unbelievable ones. Of course they are all unbelievable. But they gave the naturalist all the materials to make one and he could not do it.

  2. Hi Shirley– They are bird works of art! It’s amazing what they incorporate into the nests, and they are fun to study. One nest has shreds of blue paper. Fran

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