Douglas Fir Shortbread Cookies ~ this easy shortbread cookie recipe is made with delicate evergreen needles. They have a soft, citrusy flavor and the aroma of a winter forest.
These easy fir shortbread cookies might be the ultimate winter cookie
Yes, you can eat the needles of fir, pine, and spruce! People have been using evergreens for food and medicine for thousands of years. You know all about this if you’ve tried my Healing Conifer Tea. The Douglas Fir is native to North America ~ the flavor is soft and subtle and the aroma is enchanting. Make these cookies during the holidays, or serve them with after dinner coffee on winter nights ~ either way they’re sure to spark some interesting conversation.
Fir infused sugar is easy to make, and smells incredible!
I make this fir sugar in the same way I make my citrus sugar, by processing the fir needles with sugar in my processor until they’re completely combined. The flavor of the fir is infused into the sugar which becomes incredibly fragrant. You can see how this technique works with lemon in my Lemon Sugar Shortbread, and with orange in my Orange Creamsicle Cake
Another way to make fir infused sugar is to process the needles alone in a coffee grinder or Vitamix blender until they become very finely ground. Then you can mix the powdered needles into your sugar.
What do edible evergreens taste like?
The flavor of edible evergreens is sort of a combination of citrus and rosemary. Your sense of smell plays a role in how you ‘taste’ these plants and you’ll enjoy the familiar resin-y aroma.
Other types of evergreen you can use for this shortbread recipe
Depending on where you live you can use the needles of any of these other conifers. Look around and see what’s growing in your area.
- Douglas Fir
- Or you can get a similar effect using rosemary, which I’ve done in this recipe for Savory Herb Shortbread.
Quick way to identify the different types of confier species
- Spruce have stiff, pointy, rounded needles that grow individually out from the branch. You can roll the needles between your fingers because of their rounded shape. Spruce needles are sharp!
- Fir needles are flat and softer. They also grow individually from the branch.
- Pine needles grow in clusters of 2, 3, or 5 needles, rather than individually.
Where to find edible evergreens
You don’t have to live in the Oregon woods to find delicious edible evergreens. Look around you, chances are you’ve got some growing right in your neighborhood because pine, spruce, and fir trees grow over most of North America. Walk around your block, or in a local park, and take your clippers!
Does this mean I can eat my Christmas tree?
Well, technically, yes, as long as it hasn’t been sprayed. But your tree is likely pretty dry by now, better to grab some shears and take a walk outside. Just like with fresh herbs it’s the essential oils in the plant that make the flavor, and so the fresher it is, the better.
How to use pine, fir, or spruce needles in cooking
- First make sure you’re using unsprayed and untreated plants.
- Use the tips, or new growth, of plant because that’s the freshest and most tender.
- You can process the needles into sugar like I’ve done for baked goods.
- You can infuse the needles in alcohol or sugar syrup for cocktails, or in vinegar for salad dressings.
- Allow clean needles to dry, and then grind to a fine powder in a coffee grinder. Use as a seasoning.
- Steep clean needles in hot water for tea, see my Healing Conifer Tea post.
Note: I am always super cautious when I forage for ingredients for my recipes. Don’t ever use any plant you can’t 100% identify, because while many many plants are edible, some are not, and some are dangerous to humans. Conifers, including pine and fir, are mostly edible, and easy to find, but be aware that there can be toxic look-alikes like the poisonous yew tree. Use a reliable guide to wild edible plants to help you.
Douglas Fir Shortbread
to make fir sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 3-4 Tbsp fresh fir needles (substitute pine or spruce)
to make fir sugar
- Put the sugar and fir needles in a food processor and process until the needles are finely ground. Pulsing the machine helps to get the needles broken down. Note that you will measure out 1/2 cup for this recipe and then use more for sprinkling. You will have extra sugar leftover, which you can use in tea, oatmeal, etc.
- Cream the butter and sugar (just 1/2 cup) together until completely blended. I use a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
- Whisk the flour and cornstarch together until well blended. Add to the butter mixture and beat until the dough comes together. Scoop out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and bring it together with your hands. Make sure there's no dry flour left, and then pat into a flat disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 2-3 hours, or until firm.
- Preheat the oven to 350F
- Roll out the dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 inch thick, and cut out cookies with a 2 inch cookie cutter. Place the cookies 2 inches apart on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with more fir sugar if you like, I think it adds a nice crunch to the surface. I like to refrigerate the cookies right on the pan for 15 minutes before baking. This helps the shortbread to hold its shape well.
- Bake for about 10 minutes ~ the cookies will still be pale, and soft to the touch. They will firm up as they cool. Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before transferring to a rack.
- Cookies will last about a week, and can be frozen for longer storage.