Friday, June 3, 2011

Spruce Tip and Rose Petal Shortbread

I almost missed them. As soon as I returned from vacation I took a walk down the driveway to find the spruce tips were ready to harvest, nearly past ready. The spruce tips in the pictures with the cookies are already past their prime if you need an example. I find if they still have the brown papers attached to the ends that they are fine to harvest, but they are best when they are even a little more closed up than the ones in the photo below. You want to make sure you are harvesting the new growth and not the old brittle needles. When you chop up the tips they will be nearly as fine as tender bits of dill weed. For picking, just pop off the ends. Whether you pull the brown papery bits off before or after you harvest them is up to you. I am what you would call a clean picker; once I get my tips home I want to go to work, not spend my time sorting through and removing all the papers. It takes longer in the picking part, but in the end I think it saves time. I am the same way with berries, especially blueberries. I remove the stems before placing them in my bucket. I always end up with less in my picking bucket at the end of the day, but I don't have to spend the entire evening cleaning them. I also find if I have a bucket full of stuff that needs to be cleaned I put off the processing a lot longer and then of course risk having all my hard work spoil. So, I usually pull off the paper and then grab the tip at the base and pluck it from the branch.
I really enjoying pairing flavors of things that grow in my yard. You know the saying, "What grows together goes together". I wasn't sure about this combination, but I had also picked a few rose petals and they were sitting on the counter next to the spruce tips. Each time I walked by them I couldn't get over the intoxicating smell I knew I would make something that included them both. Please remember when using rose petals that you pick the ones that have not been sprayed or covered with dust on the road edges. Definitely don't use commercial roses, although you can use ones from your garden as long as you haven't put any nasty chemicals on them.
These cookies are subtly flavored. I was really tempted to increase the amount of spruce tips and rose petals when I made them, but it is amazing how potent both ingredients are. The house had a lovely citrus and floral scent as the cookies baked in the oven. In the end only a hint of the flavor came through, just enough to make people question what it might be. In the end it was the perfect amount of each. The only reason I would add more is to give the cookies a little more color, I was a bit disappointed that you couldn't actually see the pink and green colors, but I don't think it would be worth it to upend the delicate nature of the shortbread.
Have you ever made anything with spruce tips? Would love to find more recipes if you have one to share.

Rose Petal and Sruce Tip Shortbread
inspired by Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska
recipe adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (2 sticks)
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 egg yolk, at room temperature
1 teaspoon finely chopped spruce tips
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup loosely filled wild rose petals

In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment cream the butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add sugar and beat for another 3-4 minutes, stopping the mixer as needed to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Reduce speed to low and add egg yolk and spruce tips, beat until thoroughly combined.
Sift together flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder. With mixer on low speed add the flour mixture 1/4 cup at a time to the butter mixture and then mix until all ingredients are completely incorporated. Scrape down sides of bowl as needed.
Scrape the dough onto a piece of plastic wrap and cover with the wrap, rolling into a log shape as you wrap. Allow dough to sit in refrigerator for 30 minutes or up to two days, or until it is firm enough to roll.
With rack in center of the oven, preheat to 325 degrees F. Flour your work surface and roll the dough out to about 1/4 inch thick. Using a knife or cookie cutters, cut dough into 12-15 uniform pieces and arrange them on a baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.
Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the cookies are a very light golden brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheet for ten minutes and then transfer to a wire cooling rack until completely cool. Will keep for three days (possibly longer, but I didn't test them) in an airtight container.

9 comments:

  1. Spruce tips... never thought it could be eaten!

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  2. Looks great! I've never thought about using spruce in baking - always for infusing. Theres not much better on a cold day than some spruce tip tea!

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  3. Hey I host a blog hop and I'd LOVE if you came over and shared a recipe! Here's the link :) http://thesweetdetail.blogspot.com/search/label/Savory%20Sunday

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  4. Miriam- I am always amazed by the good things nature provides. I was pleasantly surprised how citrus-like they are.

    Kate- I still have not gotten around to infusing, but if it doesn't rain today I may just go pick some more and give it a try.

    Amanda-I'll check it out.

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  5. I honestly had no idea that you could cook with spruce. Does any kind of spruce tree work? As to the rose petals, we don't have wild roses but one of the more formal planted rose bush types (I didn't plant it. It was here before me). Do you know if you can use those petals or if it has to be the sweet wild ones?

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  6. Christine- You can actually use both Spruce and Pine trees, but as with anything I would recommend trying it first to see if you actually like the flavor. I used white spruce hear, but I know they make a lot of stuff with Sitka Spruce in Southeast Alaska. I noticed that our Black Spruce tips are kind of small a scraggly and when I tried them they are not so tasty and kind of brittle. Yes, you can use garden roses as well. Just make sure that they have not been sprayed with anything nasty that you wouldn't want to eat. Some flower shops actually sell organic roses now, so technically you could use those as well as they would not have been sprayed. However there is a little white bit at the base of cultivated rose petals that needs to be cut off as it is really bitter. Wild Roses have it too, but it is much smaller and I never see it being worth the time to cut it off as I don't notice a difference.

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  7. These sound absolutely delicious, I love the combination of flavours, what a great idea.

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  8. This is fabulous, Nicole. Now I need to start sneaking around the neighborhood for some spruce. Or better yet, a foraging hike.

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  9. What an incredibly interesting shortbread. I never knew you could use spruce tips in baking. Love it!

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