Take your holiday sugar cookies to the next level with this Christmas tree sugar cookie recipe. Flavored with edible conifer needles, they taste as good as Christmas trees smell.
What’s the first thing your brain conjures up when you think of the word “Christmas?” Santa? The Grinch? Clark Griswold?
For me the answer is sugar cookies. I didn’t grow up eating a lot of desserts, and still don’t. However, during the holidays, our family would splurge on a few homemade desserts.
For whatever reason, my favorite was sugar cookies. Perhaps because the recipe was simple enough for me to make, even as a young kid. Perhaps because it was so much fun rolling out the dough and using cookie cutters. Or perhaps it’s because they’re so dang good, despite their quick prep time and simple ingredients.
Fannie Farmer: the culinary expert whose name you should know
The sugar cookie recipe our family has used for 2.5 generations is from an old Fannie Farmer cookbook. Never heard of Fannie Farmer?
If you appreciate standardized measurements in cooking, you can thank Fannie Farmer (she lived from 1857-1915). She was a fascinating figure you should read about while your cookies are cooking or cooling.
She wasn’t just a culinary expert. In fact, she was so well-respected in her day that Harvard Medical School recruited her to teach their medical students about diet and nutrition.
As a child, my esteem for Fannie Farmer centered squarely on her sugar cookie recipe. The taste of the sugar cookies is delightfully sweet and buttery. The texture is just the right combination of crunchy and chewy.
Thus, for the 40+ years of my existence, our family’s Fannie Farmer sugar cookie recipe went unaltered, unquestioned, untouched… The printed butter-stained recipe is treated like an ancient, sacred scroll brought forth from its locked chambers once a year by an anointed priest class who perform the sacred cookie baking rites.
Ok, I might be exaggerating a bit here, but holiday sugar cookies are taken quite seriously in our family.
Family sugar cookies 2.0, this time flavored with an actual Christmas tree
This year, I’ve become a sugar cookie heretic. With or without divine intervention, I modified the sacred Fannie Farmer sugar cookie recipe to include two new ingredients:
- Christmas tree butter made with *conifer needles, and
- Christmas tree sugar, also made with conifer needles.
(*We used blue spruce needles we foraged from a tree growing near our home, but you can use any of the edible conifer needles detailed in our Edible Christmas Tree Guide.)
I also had the audacity to make this recipe before the ordained date and hour. Since time immemorial, our family’s sugar cookies could only be baked on 12/12 at 12:12pm.
Worst of all? I’m not ashamed of what I’ve done. In fact, I’m proud of it.
Our new, dare-I-say “improved” (blasphemy!) sugar cookies are even more delicious than the original. They pack all the foundational goodness of the original version while bringing the wonderful smell of Christmas trees to life on your taste buds. Transmogrification, friends.
You heard it here first, even before the Herald angels sing: Christmas tree sugar cookies are born. And they can be a new seasonal tradition for you and your family as well.
Recipe tips for Christmas tree sugar cookies
Christmas tree sugar cookies are actually a very simple recipe to make, which is one more reason to love them. A few tips to make sure you get the recipe right:
1. Organic whole white wheat flour vs refined all-purpose flour
We prefer to eat whole grains rather than refined grains. Whole grains are more nutrient-rich and higher in fiber. Yes, even when eating cookies/desserts, we do our best to hold to this rule.
We also like supporting organic and regenerative farming. Thus, another important ingredient substitute for us vs the original Fannie Farmer recipe is using certified organic white whole wheat flour instead of standard all-purpose flour.
What’s it made from? Organic white whole wheat flour is milled from hard white spring wheat, which has a lighter-colored grain than red wheat (the darker colored wheat used in most whole wheat flours). This means you get the nutrition and fiber of whole grain flour without compromising flavor or color.
If you don’t have a white whole wheat flour, just use standard all-purpose flour.
2. Use both Christmas tree butter AND Christmas tree sugar
As previously mentioned, this sugar cookie recipe builds off of two base recipes you’ll need to make first:
- Christmas tree butter (takes about 30-45 minutes to make), and
- Christmas tree sugar (takes 5-10 minutes in a good blender or spice grinder – we highly recommend using a spice grinder for best results).
Once you have these two base ingredients made, you’re ready to proceed to making Christmas tree sugar cookies.
Do you need both? Yes, in our opinion both Christmas tree butter and Christmas tree sugar are needed if you want to have a strong taste of conifer needles shine through. If you absolutely have to cut one or the other due to lack of time or conifer needles, sacrifice the Christmas tree butter – but ideally use both.
3. Room temp dough balls or cool and roll the dough?
The sugar cookie dough in this recipe is quite soft/sticky when you’re done mixing it – not ideal for rolling and stamping cookies straight away. We made two different versions and liked them both:
Version 1: Ball-shaped sugar cookies for softer, fluffier texture.
If you go this route, immediately (no cooling the dough) roll the room-temperature dough into small 1″ balls in your hands and bake them. This makes for a softer, fluffier final texture due largely to the shape/thickness of the cookies.
This version also requires an extra 1-2 minutes in the oven (about 10 minutes total, but each oven cooks a bit differently).
These are not the most beautiful cookies in the world. If you go this route, you might consider giving them a roll or sprinkle in Christmas tree sugar once they’ve cooled to add some proverbial lipstick. Give them a quick brush with melted butter (or Christmas tree butter) before rolling or sprinkling to get the sugar to stick.
Version 2: Cooled, thin-rolled sugar cookies for crunchier texture.
This version makes a thinner, crunchier cookie with just the right amount of chewiness in the center. This is the way I grew up making sugar cookies and I still love them this way…
Cool the dough in the fridge for 1 hour (or the freezer for 15-20 minutes). Then, using a rolling pin, roll out the dough on a lightly floured countertop to about 1/4″ thickness.
Use cookie cutters (or a round glass) to cut the cookies. Repeat the process with the dough left over from each cutting until all the dough is used up. These only take about 8 minutes to bake in the oven.
A third option: make both versions and let your family squabble about which version they like best. It’s not the holidays without some squabbling and eye poking with reindeer antlers.
Recipe: Christmas tree sugar cookies made with edible conifer needles
Now let’s get baking!
Christmas tree sugar cookies made with edible conifer needles
Take your holiday sugar cookies to the next level with Christmas tree sugar cookies. Flavored with edible conifer needles, they taste as good as Christmas trees smell!
- 1/2 cup Christmas tree butter; equivalent of 1 stick butter - use unsalted organic butter as base (Made with edible conifer needles)
- 3/4 cup Christmas tree sugar / 4.1 ounces (Made with edible conifer needles)
- 1 egg
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tbsp whole organic milk or cream
- 1 1/4 cups organic whole white wheat flour / 6.1 ounces (*Plus more for dusting countertop if rolling flat.)
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C) if baking immediately after mixing dough or when you take dough out of fridge/freezer to roll it.
In an electric mixer, cream the Christmas tree butter for about 1 minute. Slowly add Christmas tree sugar while the mixer is on (medium high speed) until the ingredients are light and fluffy. Add egg, vanilla, and milk/cream and continue mixing. Scrape sides and bottom of mixing bowl with a spatula and mix again to ensure all ingredients incorporated.
In a separate bowl, stir the dry ingredients together with a spoon. Then add the dry ingredients spoonful by spoonful to the mixer, with mixer on. Scrape sides and bottom of bowl with a spatula and mix again to ensure all ingredients incorporated.
See article notes about different versions of this sugar cookie. For fluffier softer sugar cookies (Version 1), immediately roll the dough into round 1-inch balls, place on covered cookie sheet and bake for ~9-10 minutes until the bottom edges of the cookies start to turn golden brown. For crunchier flat sugar cookies, put dough in fridge for one hour (or freezer for 20 minutes), then roll to 1/4" thickness on a countertop dusted with flour to prevent sticking. Cut and place raw cookies on baking sheets (covered in parchment or foil) spaced no closer than 1/2" between cookies. Bake for about 8 minutes, until the bottom edges of the cookies start to turn golden brown.
Remove from oven, and let cool on baking/cooling racks. These cookies are actually best once they've rested and cooled to room temperature. They'll last for at least a week stored in a tin at room temperature, but they won't last that long because you'll eat them all first!
We hope this recipe becomes a holiday tradition for your family as it has for ours. Enjoy!
Want to dig your fork deeper into edible conifers?
Start here: Tyrant Farms’ Edible Christmas Tree Guide
Additional Christmas tree/edible conifer recipes:
We’d also like to recommend two books for other Christmas tree eaters and food explorers; each contains delicious recipes you can make with your Christmas tree: