12 Days of Christmas Cookies: Pine Tree Cookies

I struggled with what to call these cookies. They could easily be called rosemary, lemon and currant sugar cookies, because that describes in a literal sense their flavors and composition. That wouldn’t convey the flavors and image I was going for, however, so pine tree cookies it is.

Just like with my apple cider cookies, I wanted to capture a common winter image. In this case it was evergreen trees. My first idea was to use juniper berries to flavor the cookies, but then I learned that pregnant women and young children are discouraged from eating the berries. It’s also rather difficult to acquire them.

Instead I turned to our most common woodsy herb, rosemary. To brighten the cookie I added lemon zest, and finished things off with some currants for color and mellow flavor.

I wouldn’t say that these cookies taste exactly like chewing on pine needles, which is probably a good thing. What I like most about this cookie is that the rosemary and lemon flavors don’t stand out. You end up wondering what flavors you are tasting, and you do get hints of pine. In the end, I think this is a sophisticated, playful cookie.

One of the best parts about this cookie is the sugar cookie base. I use a sugar cookie from Cook’s Illustrated (11/12 2010 issue) that is by far the best sugar cookie I have ever had. It is chewy and crunchy, with a surprising depth of flavor.

This recipe makes 36 cookies. Another nice thing about this recipe is that it doesn’t require a stand mixer.

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar (plus more for rolling)
  • 2 ounces cream cheese, cut into small pieces
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and warm
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup currants

Step 1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt, whisk together and set aside.

Step 2. Combine the warm butter, sugar and cream cheese together and whisk thoroughly. The cream cheese will break up and get partially integrated, but not all the way.

 

Step 3. Then add the vegetable oil and whisk again.

 

 

 

 

Step 4. Add the vanilla, milk and egg and whisk for a third time.

 

 

 

 

Step 5. Finally, add the chopped rosemary, lemon zest and currants and whisk for a final time. Note how the dough is getting creamier after each whisking.

 

 

Step 6. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, then fold them together with a spatula. Stir as little as possible, until the flour is just combined.

 

 

Step 7. Use a small spoon to get scoopfuls of dough, then roll them in the sugar. Place them on a nonstick or parchment-covered cookie sheet and flatten slightly with your fingers or the bottom of a glass.

Step 8. Bake, one sheet at a time, in the center of the oven, for 11 minutes. The cookies will have just started to turn brown, but they are cooked.

 

 

  • Monica

    Just found you site link via King Arthur- so I realize it is a bit late to comment… anyway, Lent just started so no cookies for now.  BUT, come Easter, these will be on the do bake list for sure.  They sound wonderful!

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