Delicious baking is a family tradition and a big part of any celebration. I come from a long line of creative bread, muffin, cookie and pie bakers. Sadly, my recipe file is bulging with heritage recipes that I love, but cannot use because I have to bake without gluten, milk products or eggs.
With spruce tip shortbead, a new tradition begins. This wonderful shortbread is exactly right to celebrate the beginning of winter and the festival of Christmas. The recipe involves several stages, so I use it “for fancy.” If you want a basic everyday shortbread instead, scroll to the bottom of this page for a simplified version.
Spruce tips are the young growth of spruce trees. We gather them in the spring for their vitamin C and citrus evergreen flavour. We also gather fir tips, which in my opionion have an even nicer flavour. You can use spruce or fir interchangeably. Taste as you go and harvest lightly from the trees that appeal to you.
Fortunately, we had frozen some of our spring harvest, and they were perfect for this recipe.
Spruce Tip Shortbread
- 1/2 cup spruce tips
- 1 1/4 cup organic butter
- 3 1/2 cups oat flour
- 1/4 cup spruce tip needles chopped
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
This recipe requires several stages of preparation:
- First make the brown butter. In a large saucepan, cook the butter over medium heat, watching carefully and stirring frequently with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat slightly if necessary. The butter will bubble and eventually turn golden, then brown. A delicious aroma will tell you when it has begun to brown. Shut off the burner, remove the pan from heat and strain out the milk solids, then stir in the 1/2 cup of spruce tips and let sit. After fifteen minutes to half an hour, strain the spruce tip brown butter into a pyrex measuring cup, pressing out as much from the needles as possible. You should have 1 cup of butter now. Add a little fresh butter to make up the amount if you need to. Let it cool to the texture of room temperature butter.
- Next make the oat flour. Grind organic rolled oats as fine as possible using a blender, bullet blender or even a coffee grinder. Sift the flour to remove any course bits. Measure 3 1/2 cups. Stir in 1/4 cup of spruce tip needles and set aside.
Making the cookies:
- Preheat your oven to 300 F.
- In a mixing bowl, cream the browned butter and coconut sugar. Add the oat flour blend and combine well. Form the dough into 24 balls and place them on parchment paper on cookie sheets, rolling first in additional coconut sugar if you like. Press the balls flat with a fork or the heel of your hand to 1/4 thick. Alternatively you can roll out the dough and make shapes using cookie cutters. Sprinkle with coconut sugar if desired.
- Bake in the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes. They should not brown. The shortbreads will firm up as they cool.
To make a quick version of this recipe, skip browning the butter and soaking the spruce tips. Instead, soften 1 cup of butter, cream it with the coconut sugar, then add gradually add and stir in the oat flour with up to 1/2 cup of chopped young tips.