Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Socktober! Fall Socks and Favorite Fall Cookie ~

It's Socktober and time to step up the sock game!  And I have done that.  Not only have I just finished a new pair of socks for Steve (using a free pattern called Fairy Maiden - shhhh it's best he not hear that) and I have two new pairs of socks for myself that I think are perfection for fall. And if this dang heat wave would finally end I could actually start wearing them.  


My first pair are the Hazelnut Socks from The Handmade Sock Society (original season) using gorgeous yarn dyed by Qing Fiber in her supersoft sock yarn (80% merino, 10% cashmere, 10% nylon).  They feel delicious on and I love how the pattern "pops" despite the wildly variegated colorway.  I will add a caveat that this is a very soft yarn and probably best suited to shawls (I used it to knit my Marley Shawl).  But with that in mind I will probably use these as "house socks."

My second pair of fall socks (pictured below) also hails from The Handmade Sock Society, but from the second season.  It's the Shell Cottage pattern paired with Woolberry Fiber Co. sock yarn.  There's actually a third year of the Handmade Sock Society that I didn't join; but now I'm sorry after sneaking a peak at the patterns.  Le sigh.  This is a workhorse yarn and these socks should wear well.  I used Berry Sock yarn (80% bluefaced leicester/ 20% nylon) and while it's not the softest yarn to work with it knit up beautifully and feels wonderful on. I'd definitely use this yarn again.

Heat wave or not fall is here and I am doing my best to enjoy the season.  I am baking, knitting, and enjoying scented candles (Cider Lane and Marshmallow Fireside by Bath and Body Works smell amazing).  And I'm spending a lot of time on my new hobby which is learning to draw and use watercolor paints!  No I'm not ready to share my "art" but I am pleased with my progress....  Since I couldn't even draw a circle before I began the bar is pretty low.  But if you are looking for something creative to do at home and have never taken an art class I really think you should consider learning to draw (which is a foundational skill for painting, etc).  I am using a book (Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain - I recommend getting the workbook that has the viewfinder in the back) and I also purchased a year membership to The Virtual Instructor which has a lot of classes on all types of art.  I began with The Secrets to Drawing and have moved on to 25 Days to Better Drawing. These classes seem very left brain oriented in approach.  Which is good because between the book and the classes I'm covering both halves of my brain which can only be a good thing.  I also have a paper fetish and drawing paper is wonderful to work on. Just saying.  

And just for fun I made Smores!  Since we can't have open fires in Southern California (due to wildfire risk) I simply used skewers and toasted my marshmallows over an open flame on my stove.  But if aren't in a fire danger area you could easily line a terracotta pot with foil and add a few briquettes and have the perfect marshmallow toasting situation in minutes.  Then all you need are graham crackers, thin chocolate bars, and marshmallows. Sounds like a perfect Halloween party treat!

Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies 

Baking of course is a huge part of the fall season and there are so many recipes that I love but I've chosen to share my absolutely favorite fall cookie.  Bar none.  It has toasted hazelnuts and is dipped in bittersweet chocolate, need I say more?  The original recipe was shared in Bake From Scratch magazine (Holiday Cookies, special issue 2017) by Laura Kasavan (Tutti-Dolci) and I've adapted it slightly with a few time saving hacks and eliminating some of  the bitterness from the hazelnuts by removing their skins.  I find it helpful to do some prep a day ahead (i.e. toast, deskin, and chop the hazelnuts and measure all ingredients).  Then on baking day you can have these cookies finished in a couple of hours.  Certainly in time for afternoon tea.  


Chocolate Hazelnut Shortbread Cookies 

~ yield ~ 24 cookies


 1 cup (113 grams) toasted, skinned, and chopped hazelnuts, divided

2/3 cup (133 grams) plus 2 tablespoons (24 grams) granulated sugar, divided (I use extra fine baking sugar)

3/4 cup (170 grams) unsalted butter, softened

1 Tablespoon (15 grams) hazelnut liquer (I use Frangelico)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

1/8 teaspoon table salt

1 3/4 cups (219 grams) all-purpose flour

8 ounces (225 grams) semisweet chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli chips)

Garnish: turbinado sugar or any crystal sugar


1.  I like to toast the hazelnuts and remove their skins the day prior to baking the cookies.  Toast hazelnuts at 350 degrees (Fahrenheit ) for 10 to 15 minutes (stirring several times) or until skins begin to crack and peal.  Turn nuts out onto a rough dishcloth and cover for a minute to allow nuts to steam.  Then twist the dishcloth into a ball around the nuts and rigorously rub them together.  Agitate nuts until most of the skins have fallen off.  Discard skin and chop nuts.  You will use 1/2 cup in the dough and 1/2 cup for the garnish.

2.  Add 1/2 cup (56.5 grams) toasted hazelnuts and 2/3 cup sugar to a food processor (or if you don't have a food processor use a blender, etc.).  Pulse until finely ground and well combined.

3.  In a stand mixer (using the paddle attachment) beat butter with hazelnut/sugar mixture at medium speed (3 to 4 minutes) or until creamy, scraping the bowl several times. With mixer on medium-low speed, add hazelnut liqueur, vanilla, and salt beating until well combined.   Remove bowl from stand mixer.

4.  Using a spoon stir in flour until just incorporated.  Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured board (or on top of parchment paper).  Divide dough in half and roll each half into a log (roughly 6.5 inches long) and wrap each log with plastic wrap.  Place wrapped log into the refrigerator for 20 minutes. When you place logs in refrigerator preheat oven to 350 degrees (Fahrenheit).

5.  Prepare two baking sheets by lining with parchment paper.  Remove one of the logs and on a lightly floured or parchment lined surface cut evenly into 12 pieces.  Then using a lightly floured rolling pin flatten each disk into a round cookie shape.  Place cookies onto parchment lined baking sheet and dust with with remaining 2 Tablespoons granulated sugar.  Repeat process with second log.  Then place both sheets of cookies back in the refrigerator for another 20 minutes.    

6.  After refrigeration, bake until cookies are lightly golden and tops and edges are set, 14 to 16 minutes (rotating pans after 8 minutes).  Let cool on pans for 5 minutes then transfer to rack to cool completely.

7.  While cookies are cooling melt chocolate.  Using a small microwave safe bowl heat chocolate in 20 second spurts (stirring well after each 20 second interval).  When almost all the chips have melted simply let the heat of the already melted chocolate complete the melting process (chocolate scorches easily so you don't want to over heat).  Set aside until cookies have cooled completely.

8.  To apply chocolate garnish lay several sheets of parchment paper on a flat surface.  Gather your melted chocolate, remaining 1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts, and turbinado sugar.  Working with one cookie at a time dip 1/2 of cookie into chocolate and then sprinkle with nuts and sugar.  Allow chocolate to set before moving cookies.  If the heat/humidity is too high for your chocolate to set you can place cookies on a baking sheet in the refrigerator for a short period to set chocolate.  These keep well in an airtight tin for several days or can be frozen. 


Pandemic Living ~

During the pandemic we are finding ourselves outside enjoying our garden more than ever.  But we never seemed to have many birds visit, despite having a bird feeder and suet cake dispenser.  Thinking about it I realized this was primarily because the blue jays were very aggressive and territorial driving off smaller birds.  So I changed tactics and began scattering bird seed on the ground over a wide area and also adding songbird seed into the bulk seed I buy.  Low and behold we now have lots of beautiful birds visiting and I couldn't be more thrilled to hear them happily tweeting and chirping away.  We have coveys of quail, bevies of doves (both ground feeders) along with a wide variety of small birds including the occasional robin and pretty songbird (that prefer using the bird feeder).  We're practically a bird sanctuary! And of course there are still the pesky pretty blue jays that feed on the ground, suet cake (their favorite) and the birdfeeder.  But now there is too much territory for them to control so at least the other birds have a chance too.  

With the heat and all the fires it's more important than ever to consider the wildlife, especially in California.  We have several water sources available for birds and the larger animals that call these mountains home or are simply migrating through.

Until next time be well and love well and stay safe in this pandemic.  If you are looking for a quick and delicious fall baking treats you can't go wrong with my Pumpkin Bread with Walnut Topping ~  or Cranberry Swirl Coffee Cake (not too sweet and perfect for morning coffee).  I've already made both this season!