One of the many perks of our short-lived and much anticipated to winter season, is finally being able to bask in the glory of the great outdoors. Thanks to the relief the cool weather provides, winter in Bangladesh is officially the season for picnics and all sorts of outdoor entertainments. Fortunately, the charms of winter are not limited to just outdoors enthusiasts, as the pleasant weather makes for the perfect scenario for any bibliophile wishing to enjoy a soothing afternoon or evening out on the rooftop, terrace or balcony. While the comfy confines of being 'cosily curled up in bed with a book' works just fine for the rest of the year (and particularly during the rainy season), it is solely during winter that one can enjoy the subtle thrills of reading amidst refreshing greenery, feet hanging lazily off the park bench, or back against a tree trunk or simply laying outstretched across a mat spread out on the rooftop under the open blue sky.
Now any enjoyable occasion or moment calls for a suitable edible accompaniment, and spending an afternoon or evening in luxurious solitude while engrossed in a good book is definitely one of them. And whether you're flipping through pages or swiping away on your tab or phone, it's important to have finger food that doesn't stick and crumble. The last thing you want is sticky evidence of whatever it is you had, all across the pages, especially if its a borrowed book.
Since winter provides the best opportunity to keep warm with a bit of indulgence, an occasional healthy dose of butter and cream is actually not such a bad idea. Also, when engaged in activities that benefit the mind, even sugar is deemed good for you, since glucose is considered brain food.
Here's a couple of recipes that ticks all the boxes when it comes to being mildly sweet, buttery, and handling-friendly:
While shortbread can come in any shape and size, the classic rectangular shape of these “finger cookies” make them the ideal dunk-able delight, especially because they soak up just the right amount of whatever it is you dunk them in, creating the perfect combination of crunchy and soggy. This is the perfect recipe which yields the best in taste, with only three basic ingredients and next to no effort.
All you need is:
• 125g butter
• 55g caster sugar, plus extra to finish
• 180g plain flour
• A pinch of salt
Start by heating the oven to 190°C. Beat the butter and the sugar together until smooth, then stir in the flour to get a smooth paste. Turn on to a work surface and gently roll out until the paste is 1cm/½in thick. Cut into rounds or fingers and place onto a baking tray. Sprinkle with caster sugar and chill in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, or until pale golden-brown. Set aside to cool on a wire rack. Once cool, pack in a carry-friendly jar or container and whisk away to wherever it is you plan on spending time reading.
In keeping with the wintry theme of staying warm and being indulgent, this recipe for a decadent mug of hot chocolate makes for the best dunking accompaniment to the buttery shortbread. And once again, it is a win-win, with only a handful of ingredients required:
• 1½ cups milk
• 1 tbsp cream
• 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
• 1 tbsp white sugar
• ½ cup brewed espresso
• ¼ cup chocolate chips (dark, milk or white)
Combine the milk and cream in a saucepan, and whisk over high heat until hot and frothy. Remove from heat and stir in the vanilla and sugar. Whisk together hot espresso and white chocolate chips in a mug until smooth. I personally love dark chocolate in this since it makes for a rich taste without being too sweet. Top with the frothy hot milk and stir to blend in the flavouring.
Just be sure to pour into a flask with a wide mouth, which will enable easily cookie-dunking access.