On the ninth day of Christmas … my true love gave to me … Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies.
That’s right! You can eat the tree! Over the past year, I encountered a fair number of Northwest restaurant dishes and cocktails featuring Clear Creek Distillery’s Douglas Fir Eau de Vie. This pale green brandy is an infusion of hand-picked spring tips of the Douglas fir tree. This intriguing liqueur got me thinking about incorporating Douglas fir tips in my own dishes–especially since I live much of the time in the Cascade foothills surrounded by these incredibly fragrant trees.
Daniel Paterson of SanFrancisco Magazine has written the most informative article I have seen thus far on the range of possibilities for incorporating Douglas fir buds into a variety of dishes. Check out Douglas Fir Tips Bring the Flavor of the Forest into the Kitchen.
I experimented with using Juniper Ridge Douglas Fir Tip Tea for these unusual holiday cookies, but the flavor is too mild to make it through the baking process, plus the color of the dried fir tips is, well, uninteresting. I highly recommend this fir tip tea for drinking though. You will be pleasantly surprised at the subtle, minty aroma and flavor.
If you want to get the flavor of Douglas fir into your holiday cookies, you must use the fresh tips of the tree. The flavor, once baked, is more subtle and delicious than you might imagine.
Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies
This is a fine butter cookie, easy to roll and cut with cookie cutters. The final texture is light and crisp (and fragile), the flavor buttery, with minty-orange undertones that are difficult to identify. Once you know that actual fir needles were used in the dough, you will smile with recognition. It’s fun to decorate the Christmas tree and eat it too.
NOTE These cookies are fragile. To keep breakage within an acceptable limit, use small, compact cookie cutters.
2¾ cups King Arthur unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup Douglas Fir needles (preferably from the tips of branches)
1½ cups fresh unsalted butter, at cool room temperature (3 sticks)
finely grated zest of 1 large orange
1½ teaspoons orange blossom water
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Reserve.
- In a processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the sugar and fir needles until the needles are finely minced. Remove to a bowl.
- In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar/fir needle mixture.
- Add the orange zest and orange blossom water, and incorporate.
- Mix in the egg yolks, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times in the process.
- Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
- Divide the dough into 3 equal portions and flatten each portion to a ½-inch thick disk on a sheet of plastic wrap. Seal the plastic wrap around each portion of the dough and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (The sealed dough can be refrigerated for 2-3 days if necessary.)
- On a lightly floured pastry cloth, using a covered and floured rolling pin, roll out the dough to an ?-inch thickness. Use a little flour to keep the dough from sticking if necessary, but try not to work too much additional flour into the dough.
- Using a small, compact shaped Christmas tree cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
- Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheets.
- If desired, sprinkle each cookie with both colored sprinkles and press a single silver dragee at the top of the trees.
- Bake each sheet of cookies at 350° for 9-10 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point to ensure even browning. (If you have a convection oven or setting on your regular oven, by all means use it. Your cookies will be more evenly browned.)
- When the cookies are lightly browned on the edges, remove from the oven, loosen each cookie with a thin spatula and let cool for 3-4 minutes on the pan. Remove cookies from the cookie sheet and place on a wire rack and cool completely.
- Store airtight, in layers separated by wax paper rounds, in a cookie tin in a cool, dry place. These cookies improve with age. They keep for 3-4 weeks. Cookies may also be frozen.
Makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on size of cookie cutter.
Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.