Painting is a skill that I lack but perseverance is not so although I am not a great or even good painter, I love to paint. Mostly cookies and cakes if truth be told. One day I decided to paint some bird cookies. They ended up like watercolour birds which was not my initial aim but sometimes you just need to go with what eventuates. My mother in law Tuulikki once told Mr NQN's brother, "You know you can't always get what you want...".
Dear Reader, do you ever have those days where you just cannot face people? I recently ran into an acquaintance at the supermarket. I hadn't seen him for a while and it was a Sunday morning. He looked as though he had been up for 48 hours straight. His posture was all FML, his hair was askew and it looked like he had pulled on a t-shirt and shorts from the laundry basket. We were both going through the checkout at the same time and we both looked up as we were picking up our groceries and walking towards the door.
It took me a second or two to recognise him as it was a bit out of context. However his eyes widened and he looked alarmed, the recognition on his face triggering my recognition at him. He stared straight at me and then grabbed his bag of shopping and ran away as fast as he could without lapsing into a full sprint. I was left with my mouth hanging open, his half-muttered name on my lips. "Rich...".
I'm not sure what happened to Richard that day but clearly, he was not in the mood to chat aimlessly to an acquaintance about the weekend and his best response was to flee. I get that, sometimes I am not in the mood. And sometimes you just want to do solitary activities like reading...or painting.
I'm not really good at painting. In fact I'm really rubbish at it. It's like singing. I'd love to be able to do both those things but I just don't have a knack for it. But with both I will keep trying (the singing much to Mr NQN's embarrassment). I wasn't sure whether to put these up or not because in truth they're actually not like swallows. They're swallows via watercolour. But I thought that if it might inspire people to pick up a paintbrush and try their hand at bettering them with some edible colours then that might be a good thing.
So tell me Dear Reader, are you good at painting and singing? And have you ever pretended to not see anyone to avoid talking to them?
Painted Bird Cookies
An original recipe by Lorraine Elliott/Not Quite Nigella
Preparation time: 10 minutes plus an hour or so painting time
Cooking time: 20 minutes
- 85g/3ozs butter, softened
- 140g/5ozs/3/4 cup white caster superfine sugar
- 1 egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 180g/6ozs/1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour plus extra for rolling
- 500g/1lb. white fondant (you won't use all of this)
- 1/2 cup cornflour/cornstarch
- Edible colour gels in green, blue, red, black and yellow
- Edible gold dust mixed with vodka or rose spirit
- Painters palette
- 4 Clean #8 paintbrushes, 1 #1 brush and a non stick rolling pin
- You will also need a bird/swallow cutter
Step 1 - Line two trays with parchment. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in egg and vanilla. Stir in the flour. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
Step 2 - Preheat oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut out into bird shapes and gently place on parchment lined trays. Bake for 15 minutes or until light golden. Cool completely on tray.
Step 3 - Dust a clean surface lightly with the cornflour/cornstarch. Roll out the fondant (I used a light pink one but that's only because I had run out of white). Cut out the bird shape with the cutter and using a little water, attach the fondant to the cookie.
Step 4 - Add some water to the cavities of the palette and start off lightly with very diluted mixes of blues and greens before adding more colour to make a more solid colour using the #8 paintbrushes. The key to painting is layering (see this blog post for more detail). Draw feathers in green and blue. I had my iPad propped up in front of me and used tattoo illustrations as a guide. Colour the beak in with yellow and also use red highlights on the feathers.
Step 5 - Using the smallest brush the #1 draw and outline in black. Finish by highlighting the patterns with a little liquid gold.