Wild Food Larch Shortbread Recipe

7th May 2021
I recently attended a beautiful Women's Nature Walk and came away inspired to experiment with Larch needles, and bake some Larch Shortbread for Phil's birthday.  He loves trees of course - but my baking attempts are hit and miss (mostly miss) so it was risky. On the walk, Chef Verity of Eolach shared her knowledge of foraging, giving us all lots of ideas and inspiration. The discovery of young Larch needles being edible and really delicious was the most intriguing part of the morning for me.  I've always loved the smell of conifers and couldn't resist trying these baked into a biscuit.  We have two Larch trees here on the croft, easily found at this time of year with their lime green needles.  I had a google for Larch shortbread or cookies but nothing came up.  I was on my own. 
On the walk Verity explained that she whizzed up the larch needles with sugar. I wanted to double-check the safety of eating Larch - just in case I'd gotten mixed up on the walk, although I was pretty confident.  I found the Galloway Wild Foods website which is an unbelievable resource.  The section on conifers was useful and interesting - apparently, you can eat your Christmas tree! I learned that Limonene and Pinene are the compounds responsible for that 'citrus, piney zing'.
I found a simple shortbread recipe online and also looked up a few Lavender shortbread ideas on Pinterest, and then just kind of amalgamated them. I'm no baker so this was definitely experimentary (not an official word).  I was cautious and didn't use 100% Larch Sugar in the recipe - maybe about 30% Larch sugar and 70% plain caster.  I made the dough into a roll, brushed on egg and rolled in the Larch sugar. I placed the cut rounds into the fridge for about 20 minutes before baking at 190 degrees for 15-20 minutes.  In the future I might increase the amount of Larch sugar I use - it worked well and the flavour was there but subtle - I'd like to try it with a bit more of the Larch zing.  I might also refrigerate the dough before brushing on the egg and rolling in the sugar, just so it takes up less space.  
Recipe

Larch Sugar

55g Caster Sugar and roughly 20g fresh Larch needles

Shortbread - Adapted from BBC good food

55g caster sugar (I used about 20g caster sugar that had been whizzed up with fresh larch needles in a food processor and 35g ordinary sugar) beat into 120g of softened, salted butter. I then added 180g of plain flour until I had a crumbly dough. I rolled this into a large sausage shape, brushed with beaten egg and then rolled into lots of Larch sugar for a pretty, crispy edge.

Next up in our wild food experiments... Ground Elder.  Watch this space. A much healthier option than this birthday treat!

The Women's Nature Walk was organised by The Selkie Collective - local entrepreneurs, environmentalists and mothers, Amy and Emma.  These ladies are doing wonderful work on Skye, connecting women, exploring wellbeing, and running a beautiful zero waste shop in Broadford.  They kindly visited the Croft recently to explore some ideas and we plan to hold an event on the croft later this year - or maybe next year.  Recently I've been exploring ways we can use the croft to have a positive impact locally.  Having the support and encouragement of these inspiring women is keeping me motivated. 

Wildlife Croft Skye is on TikTok now and I'll be posting videos of bird songs and calls, maybe the odd recipe, and images of our horticultural efforts.  You can find us on Pinterest too.

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