Douglass Fir Shortbread Cookies

Douglas Fir branch with pine cone

The Douglas Spruce is one of those trees that the English Landlords loved to include on their estates. Growing very tall and beautifully fluffed out, it makes for a really eye catching tree! You’ll find them scattered everywhere from Powerscourt to Johnstown and Stormont. But it also features in loads of our own gardens and is a very very popular Christmas Tree due to its thick greenery.

Known to grow to great heights, the Douglas Fir in Powerscourt Gardens is one of the tallest trees in Ireland, standing at a magnificent 202 feet or 61.56 meters! Its also the 7th tallest tree in Europe!

Originally from North America, it has settled in well here and is a pretty easy tree to ID, though for this recipe you can use any Everygreen needles, Spruce or Fir. Just be sure you haven’t picked anything from a poisonous Yew tree!

First to ID the tree: Needle-like leaves are flat, soft and flexible, and distributed around the twig. They are green in colour with white-green stripes on the underside. Buds resemble those of beech trees – they are red-brown, scaly and slender, and taper to a point.

Douglas fir is monoecious, meaning both male and female cones are found on the same tree. Male cones are oval, in clusters and bear yellow stamens growing on the underside of the previous year’s shoots. Female cones are green to red, upright tufts, and grow at the tips of twigs.

Douglas Fir branch with pine cone

This recipe comes from America, so it calls for the use of Cornflour. not something we use a lot of here! But essentially we will be making “Spruce Sugar” which can be used in any type of recipe. But why is it Spruce sugar, not Fir Sugar? Because the Douglas Fir is not actually a true fir tree! Which is why, if you only have Sitka Spruce growing near you, then you can simply use those needles instead!

in fact you can use the needles from any of these trees…

  • Douglas Fir
  • pine
  • spruce
  • cedar
  • redwood

So don’t worry if you’re not quiet sure of the species, but as I said before, just make sure its not a YEW!

The needles have a lovely lemony flavour when they are fresh and bright green, later on they will develp a more resin-like taste so these are best picked in the Spring and Summer. Look out for the brighter coloured needles at the ends of the branches, these are the ones you want! Gather about a cupful or so.

Recipe for Douglas Fir Shortbread Cookies

You will need:

  • One cupful of washed fresh Spruce Needles
  • 245 Grams of soft butter
  • 230 Grams of Sugar
  • 290 Grams of Self Raising Flour
  • 60 Grams of Cornflour
  • Blender: a nutrebullet, coffee grinder or hand blender will work too
  • Mixing bowl
  • Weighing scales
  • Small bowl
  • Lined baking tray


  • First you need to make your Spruce Sugar. I like to make extra to sprinkle on top of my finished cookies but also to use in other recipes.
  • Throw a handful of needles into your mixer along with the sugar listed above and blitz until you have a fine caster sugar in a lovely bright green colour. Weigh out 115grams (roughly half) and leave aside for now.
  • Add your corn flour and self-raising flour to the bowl and add your butter. Using your hands crumble the butter and flour’s together. when the butter has been thoroughly distributed, mix in the 115grams of sugar you set aside.
  • Using your hand, mix until it begins to come together as a dough. Flop it out onto a floury surface, make sure it’s well kneaded.
  • Place it in a small bowl, cover with a damp cloth/clingfilm/beeswax wrap and leave to chill in the fridge for about an hour or two. It should feel nice and hard when you take it out.
  • Now its time to roll it out flat and cut into cookies. I like to make them about half a centimeter thick at the least, any less and they will fall apart!
  • Once on the baking pan, sprinkle a little more Spruce sugar on the top and pop them into the oven for around 10-12 mins at 180’.
  • Any sugar left over can be used in tea, on porridge or is amazing on pancakes!
  • When you take them out of the oven they will be pale and soft, so you may be tempted to leave them a little longer but dont! They will harden as they cool and will taste amazing!