Pine bark cookies happened more or less by accident in my kitchen. I know, you say, how can you just happen to make pine bark cookies? Well, let me explain.
I had this idea to make cookies with all wild foraged ingredients, from the flour to the sweetener and everything. Flour, believe it or not, is relatively easy to mimic with foraged ingredients. Butter, on the other hand, is not.
I had just rendered some squirrel fat to make cookies, and they were absolutely delicious. A bit of maple, a quail egg, hazelnut flour, and squirrel fat make a darn tasty cookie.
At the same time, I had just made a big batch of pine bark flour to make a traditional Nordic pine bark bread (yes, there really is such a thing). So here I find myself with a jar of rendered squirrel fat, a few leftover quail eggs and plenty of pine bark flour for baking. See, cookies are the obvious solution!
I whipped up a small batch of pine bark flour cookies using 2 tbsp pine bark flour, 2 tbsp dock seed flour, 1 tbsp squirrel fat, 1 tbsp maple syrup, and a quail egg.
The result? Not great. I know you’re probably not surprised, but I was. The pine bark bread was delicious, and the other wild-foraged cookies I whipped up that day were all amazing.
Not a bad failure rate, all things considered. I would class them as “technically edible” and a fun little side project, but that’s not the interesting part…
My daughter was eagerly awaiting as they came out of the oven. Through the whole process, she watched, licking her lips.
You see, she had recently eaten my squirrel fat hazelnut cookies, which were totally out of this world. Then, she’d eaten a slice of pine bark bread, which she also loved.
She knows these cookies are made with pine bark and squirrel lard…two things she’s already found to be delicious. Nonetheless, she keeps calling them “chocolate cookies.” I look at them, and they’re so dark that they actually look quite a bit like a chocolate cookie.
I hand her one, saying, “Here’s your pine bark cookie my dear.” She demolishes it in under 3 seconds and says, “Can I have another chocolate cookie mama?”
I never at any point suggested they were made of chocolate, but nonetheless, her chocolate-loving juvenile brain manufactured the idea based on their color. The effect was so complete that she actually convinced herself that they tasted like chocolate, and cleaned her plate.
In a strange way, this gives me hope. Kids are remarkably resilient, and imagine for a moment we found ourselves in the woods foraging for our very survival.
We’d be hungry a lot, and any tiny bit of comfort would go a long way. All it takes is the mere suggestion of a treat, even without real hunger, and a child can manufacturer the taste of chocolate in their mouths.
That, my friends, is what real magic is.