Melt in your mouth Pine Needle Shortbread Cookies. A twist on an old favourite with just a hint of piney, citrusy flavour. Delicate, delicious & sure to impress!
After the success of my Vegan Molasses Cookies, I have been meaning to come up with another recipe and what better time than Christmas? I wanted it to be a festive version and had lots of different ideas, but when the smell of pine filled the house after we brought our Christmas tree home, all of those ideas fell by the wayside. I just knew that Pine Needle Shortbread Cookies needed to happen!
Did you know that pine needles are edible?* Cue a twig and leaf-eating vegan joke.....I walked straight into that, didn't I?
I vaguely remember years and years ago, drinking pine needle tea, somewhere, I have no idea where. That is how I knew that you could eat/drink them. They are incredibly nutritious too, containing more vitamin C than lemon and high levels of vitamin A and other antioxidants.
I am not usually much of a forager, but as far as I know, you can't buy pine needles for cooking anywhere? As I live in Canada, I am surrounded by more pine trees than you can imagine so sourcing them is easy. In fact, they are pretty common wherever you are, so you shouldn't have much of a problem finding a willing donor at all.
These cookies are so easy to make. You need no special equipment at all. Just a bowl, a fork and a baking tray. A cookie-cutter is nice to use but if you don't have one the top of a mason jar or the rim of a cup or glass does the job too. A Christmas tree-shaped cookie cutter is perfectly suited to the pine needle flavour though and they look so pretty!
Harvesting pine needles
Be sure to choose needles that aren't on branches really low to the ground as they might have been peed on by dogs or other passing creatures, and be sure to choose trees that you know would not have been sprayed with anything nasty.
I would also recommend not using needles from your Christmas tree or wreath as they are often sprayed with pesticides or flame retardant prior to harvesting.
Choose a 'wild' tree away from busy roads and I would recommend tasting the needles (yes I was the madwoman in the forest tasting the trees). They all taste really different. Firs and spruces tend to have the best flavour and are the most fragrant and citrusy which works really well in my Pine Needle Shortbread Cookies.
Be sure to read my notes about the trees you should not be harvesting needles from under "important - please read".
Important - Please read
I did my research before developing my recipe and all varieties of pine needles are edible except Norfolk Island Pine, Ponderosa Pine and Yew trees. They are easy to distinguish as their foliage is different to other pine trees. Norfolk Island Pine doesn't really have needles at all, its foliage is more like fronds or fern leaves. Yew trees have flat, wide needles that aren't sharp and they have red berries instead of pine cones and Ponderosa Pine has very long, 4" - 12" long needles which because of their length makes the foliage look like fox tails. Avoid these varieties and be sure to stick to the traditional, short, cylindrical, pointy needles. The younger needles are best as they are more tender although they soften up when you cook them so don't worry to much about that.
Looking for more Christmas recipes? Be sure to check out my:
- Vegan Mincemeat
- Vegan Christmas Pudding
- Vegan Brandy Butter
- Vegan Christmas Shortbread
- Vegan Gingerbread Cake
- Vegan Mince Pies
- Festive Mincemeat Tart
Pine Needle Shortbread CookiesAuthor:
- 40g (heaping ⅓ cup) powdered sugar
- 100g (½ cup) hard and cold coconut oil or vegan butter (use refined coconut oil for no coconut flavour))
- ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt (see recipe note)
- 1 heaping tablespoon pine needles (washed gently while attached to the twig and allowed to dry then stripped off the twig so only the loose needles remain - read my tips on harvesting these in the post above or the notes below)
- 165g (1 ⅓ cup) all purpose flour (plain flour in the UK)
- more powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Put the flour and pine needles in a blender. Make sure the top is on tight and blend until the pine needles are chopped into little pieces throughout the flour. Don't be alarmed by the really strong pine smell. Once cooked it becomes very subtle. Using a blender is the easiest method for chopping the pine needles. You need the flour in there with them as otherwise it's such a tiny amount they would just fly around and not get cut. I found chopping the needles with a knife pretty tough (literally!). Scissors would be a better option if you don't have a blender.
- Combine the powdered sugar, salt and the coconut oil in a bowl. Use a fork to mash together very, very well until you can no longer see any powdered sugar and it's light and fluffy.
- Pour in the flour and pine needle mixture and mix by hand until everything is combined. I start by mashing with a fork then stir together with a spoon at the end a bit. Do not over mix or use electric beaters here. Too much mixing will affect the texture of the finished shortbread.
- When done it should be slightly crumbly but hold together if you squeeze it together in your hand. The drier you can get away with keeping the dough, the better the texture of your shortbread and you should not need to add any liquid at all.
- If the dough is starting to get a bit soft, stop and put it in the fridge for 20 minutes before continuing. It will firm up again then.
- Lightly dust a surface with flour and shape your dough into a ball. Roll out to about 3 - 4 mm thick then use a cookie cutter or mason jar lid/rim of a glass to cut into shapes.
- Place gently on the prepared cookie sheet.
- Bake for 10 - 12 minutes.They will start turning a little golden around the edges and on the bottom when done.
- Keep an eye on them in the last few minutes as they can turn from ok to overdone very quickly. They will still feel slightly soft in the middle but will firm up as they cool.
- Place them on a cooling rack to cool.
- Unlike some cookies these are best eaten when completely cooled so be patient!
Nutritional information is provided for convenience. The data is a computer generated estimate and should be used as a guide only.