Trim the Christmas Tree & Eat It Too Cookies

Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies

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.

Freshly Harvested Douglas Fir Tips

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 Cut Outs

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

Finishing, optional
chartreuse sprinkles
silver sprinkles
silver dragees

  1. In a large mixing bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, and salt. Reserve.
  2. In a processor fitted with the steel blade, pulse the sugar and fir needles until the needles are finely minced. Remove to a bowl.
  3. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar/fir needle mixture.
  4. Add the orange zest and orange blossom water, and incorporate.
  5. Mix in the egg yolks, scraping down the sides of the bowl a couple of times in the process.
  6. Add the flour mixture and mix very briefly on very slow speed, just until a dough forms.
  7. 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.)
  8. 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.
  9.  Using a small, compact shaped Christmas tree cookie cutter (or cutter of your choice), cut out the cookies.
  10. Coat a baking sheet lightly with vegetable spray. Arrange cookies slightly apart on the cookie sheets.
  11. If desired, sprinkle each cookie with both colored sprinkles and press a single silver dragee at the top of the trees.
  12. 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.)
  13. 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.
  14. 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.

There’s More

To follow along as we bake our way through this year’s Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Starry Night collection, see the kickoff post and the entire collection.

Also, check out last year’s collection, Twelve Days of Christmas Cookies: Deck the Halls.



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  1. says

    Cookies that both look and taste like Christmas trees– there you go, pushing the boundaries of Christmas cookies yet again! I have sampled Doug fir tips and they are good. For those that live where there are no Douglas firs, I saw a suggestion in the NYT Urban Forager blog that you could forage the tips of Colorado blue spruce, they are said to have a lemony flavor. It’s the new growth that is softest and most edible, which you would find in early spring, yet you are making this as a Christmas cookie, so you must have liked the tips you could get in December. Daniel Patterson’s article is no longer at the link that you gave, but I found it here:
    Mary (Fit and Fed) recently posted…Happy 1st Blogiversary Fit and Fed!My Profile

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Thank you, Mary! :-) Changed that link in the post. The tips I collected from the forest around our house were supple and tender even in December. I also found a fir tip tea that would likely work too.

  2. says

    i’ve never seen a recipe that calls for douglas fir needles but i’ve heard that the needles from fir trees are very nutritious and some use it in a tea. i have to admit that i don’t know if i would like this because i might associate the pine scent with a certain bathroom cleaner. of course, i don’t know for sure; i’d really need to try this in reality because these cookies might just be amazing!

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Paris Tourist, do try these, you will be very surprised by the delicate flavor. Not at all like Pine-Sol. :-)

  3. Chloe says

    I am making your cookies for a class project on Douglas Firs. If I am gathering the tree tips from a forest, how do you recommend I wash the pruned tips? Also, I am looking to serve Douglas Fir Tip Tea with my cookies, however the product is not sold here in Vancouver. How could I brew the tea on my own with the fresh tree tips?
    Thanks ahead of time,

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      Hi Chloe. Simply clean the tips under cold running water. And yes, you can brew the tes with fresh fir tips. The flavor, whether from dried or fresh fir tips will be mild. Sounds like a fun project! :-)

  4. GreenAttraction says

    This is probably the most interesting Douglas Fir recipe I have found. I am not so sure I would try it; however, some of my readers may! =D

    I added this as one of the ways to recycle a Christmas tree and linked it right back to your site to get the full recipe. This is very creative!;)

    GreenAttraction recently posted…Recycle It- Compost It or Eat ItMy Profile

    • Susan S. Bradley says

      GreenAttraction, thank you, and I appreciate the link. However, please note that the fir tips must be tender and FRESH. A two-week old tree is not worth eating. :-)

  5. sms bradley says

    Robin, I’m not sure. You will need to do some research to determine first if baslsam tips are safe for human consumption and if so, if the tips have a soft texture and a pleasing flavor. Do let us know what you discover.

  6. Heidi says

    Yeah I think I added too much zest and also used orange juice instead of orange blossom water which I couldn’t get. I’m going to save this and try again next year for sure!! Thanks again! They are deeeelicious.

  7. Heidi says

    The baked version was very good! As I mentioned the orange flavor kind of overwhelmed the other flavors.

    These cookies are quite delicate. Some that were baked at a higher temperature were sturdier, although I had to watch to make sure they didn’t brown too much.

  8. Heidi says

    I haven’t baked these yet but mmm what an interesting cookie! All in all fun and easy – although – the pine was hard for my processor to blend up evenly (it all flew to the top of the sugar which turned to powder). I had to bust out my mortar and pestle. So maybe chopping it first, before chosen grinding method, would be a good idea. Also, I think the orange slightly overwhelms the taste of pine. I had to use orange juice from a valencia, maybe that’s why? I probably could have watered that down some or cut down the zest. Anyways. Thanks for sharing! Happy holidays 😀

    • sms bradley says

      Heidi, you say you haven’t baked them yet. After baking the orange flavor should be very much in the background. I’m eating one (OK, four) of these cookies now just to be sure. It’s the elusive orange blossom flavor that comes through, but just a whisper. If your palate says otherwise though, be all means make an adjustment to the measurements. Wow, I love these cookies. :-)

    • sms bradley says

      Deana, Retsina might be interesting. But just a tiny amount. There’s something very nice, albeit subtle, about the fresh Douglas Fir tips though. I’m eating these cookies now and am reminded how good they are. I may need to make another batch. :-)

  9. says

    Wow, I love to eat Christmas Cookies! What fun to have ones that look like x-mas trees too! We usually make popcorn and eat that when we decorate our tree.
    .-= AJ @ Upside Down Christmas Tree´s last blog ..Do Follow Blog, Comment Luv, Keyword Luv, Top Commenters =-.

    • sms bradley says

      Thank you, Charles, you are most gracious. Do let me know if you try the oil. I will order some too. I’m looking forward to eating more of the trees in our woods. :-)

  10. sms bradley says

    Charles, thank you for your interest! I am happy to have found your site as well. We share a love for Oregon. :-)

    On the eau de vie question, I don’t think you will get enough of the Douglas fir taste and the downside is the harsh kick of the alcohol. It’s really easy to overpower the flavor of the fir. It is surprisingly subtle when baked. I was tempted to use a little oil of Douglas fir but couldn’t locate it. That would surely amplify the fir flavor.

    I approve the adaptation with the following stipulations:

    ~Title of recipe: LunaCafe’s Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies
    ~Recipe credit given to Susan Bradley of LunaCafe
    ~Link to LunaCafe post

    I appreciate your kind request. Best…Susan

  11. says

    I’m fascinated by these. With your permission, I would love to adapt this recipe for our blog with full credit and a link back to you. I read with interest Alta’s lack of Douglas Firs in Dallas, TX. What do you think a tiny splash of Clear Creek’s eau de vie would add? Glad I found your site and so close to us too.

  12. Jocelyne says

    Ah!…Years ago like my grand-mother I put a little branche of Douglas Fir on my “Buche de Noel” and wrap it for few days.It give a fir taste to frosting and cake.

  13. says

    Wow, how unique! Since I don’t live where there are a lot of douglas firs (Dallas isn’t well-known for them, LOL), I am not sure I’ll easily be able to source the needles. I am curious though – what do these taste like? Does it resemble rosemary? I think I would love these. Hmm, maybe even rosemary and orange blossom water would be good in cookies…

    • sms bradley says

      Darn! Aren’t there ANY trees in Dallas you can eat? :-) Oh no, nothing like rosemary. Fir tips are surprisingly subtle in flavor; a little mint, a little foral something, then a little evergreen flavor. Very hard to describe but very delicious. Maybe you can get the tea I mentioned, just to taste the flavor.

    • sms bradley says

      Thank you so much! You will have to hurry if you want to taste these cookies in my kitchen. I cannot stop eating them and they will soon be GONE. :-)

    • sms bradley says

      LOL! I’m sure many others are thinking the same thing so thank you for asking the question. :-) Orange blossom water or orange flower water, as it is also called, is an essential flavoring produced from bitter orange blossoms. It has a beautiful, soft aroma and taste, a little like orange extract but more subtle and perfume-like or flower-like. You will see it used in French and Mediterranean dishes, as well as occasionally in Mexican and American dishes. I chose it for this cookie because it echoes the floral notes in the fir tips. Orange extract or oil, by contrast, would overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fir. You should be able to find it in an upscale or gourmet grocery store.


  1. […] your thang, then, by all means go ahead and eat it. Here’s a tasty looking recipe: Douglas Fir & Orange Blossom Butter Cookies. And, for the serious tree snacker, check out this post: Douglas fir tips bring the flavor of the […]

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