As luck or Mother Nature would have it, the unprecedented hot dry summer has spiraled into a seriously wet and stormy fall and winter. The kind were the ground gets so saturated that it seeps in through the concrete basement walls and little springs burble up in the middle of your yard. I have been trying to stay in the Christmas spirit, but, frankly, this weather is dragging me down. It is time to start my annual Christmas baking marathon and so it is time to make some lemonade out of the lemons. Or more directly, shortbread out of Douglas fir windfall. Yes, Mother Nature I see your awful storms and raise you some Douglas fir shortbread Christmas cookies.
Seriously, beat that Mother Nature. (No actually, don’t –I am not equipped for much more without a rest).
Did I mention I broke a rib? Yeah, this season is going swimmingly. Pun intended.
I was absolutely inspired when my forager friend Jennifer of Gather posted pictures of Grand fir shortbread cookies that she prepared for a Victoria, B.C. event (and she was so inspired by the ever marvelous Emily Han – see her original recipe here). Intrigued by Emily’s recipe, I embarked to utilize her recipe using my Douglas fir windfall with a decidedly Christmas-y spin.
Enter allspice and ginger.
The resulting cookies are tender, slightly sweet, woodsy and subtly spicy. Nothing is overpowering, but the flavor is nonetheless intense with a lovely balsamic aroma. The cookies ended up a lovely shade of soft green (as I was able to pulverized the needles with sugar in a high powered blender) and studded with candied ginger (optional), with a light dusting of coarse sugar – how very festive! If you are fresh out Douglas fir, other edible fir, pine or spruce, even rosemary will lend a similar flavor (please check that your selection of conifer is in fact EDIBLE – no poison cookies on Christmas).
Lest you think I could let a post go by without mentioning the medicinal and nutritional value of the inspiring ingredients – never you worry!
Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzeisii), neither a true fir or hemlock, has a long history of medicinal use here in the Pacific Northwest. The tree is ubiquitous symbol of the region, our mountains and hillsides a textural canvas of Douglas fir green. Vibrant, richly green needles (the tips of which practically glow neon when with new spring growth) are relatively soft, rotating somewhat around each branch. The buds of Douglas fir are distinct, reddish brown and pointed. The cones display a “tail” under each scale – as folklore spins that mice would take refuge in the cones during fire, leaving their little feet and tail exposed. Doug fir, used medicinally, offer anti-inflammatory and expectorant action and act as a tonic for the kidney and urinary system. Additionally, the Douglas fir needles are abundant in Vitamin C, making it a valuable addition to immune supporting teas.
Douglas fir needles can be used in teas, baked goods, incorporated into a seasoning salt (thinking with dried orange peel, juniper berries and galic), infused into syrups for soda and sorbets, while both the needles and the resin can infused into oils for salves, tinctured, or added to fire ciders or other health goods.
For more information on Douglas fir please see this blog post.
Magical Douglas Fir Shortbread Cookies Recipe
- 1/4 cup clean, fresh Douglas fir needles (or other edible conifer needle or rosemary)
- 1 cup butter, softened
- 2/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- I teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/3 cup finely diced candied ginger (optional)
- In a food processor or high powered blender, pulverize the sugar and Douglas fir needles until very fine and evenly green.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, or by hand, cream together the butter and Douglas fir sugar. Add dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.
- Divide dough into two portions. Using wax or parchment paper, work each portion into a 1.5″ diameter log, wrap tightly and chill for at least one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough logs from refrigerator and slice into approximately 1/4″ rounds.
- Place on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10 minutes or until edge are slightly golden. After removing from oven allow to sit on the baking sheet for another 5 minutes to ensure that the bottom side is set, then transfer parchment with cookies to a flat surface to cool.Sprinkle with sugar while fresh from the oven. Makes 24-30 cookies.