Community can be defined with infinite variables. The town one lives in, the circle of people one’s philosophies adhere too, the family and friends that make up ones web of contacts. Community can just be a sense of belonging and one can be part of many communities at once. Living in Dillingham, the hub of Bristol Bay Alaska, makes me think about my personal communities often. Especially this season when our town has said goodbye recently to so many teachers, healthcare workers, & others leaving for jobs elsewhere, different horizons and the seasonal influx of fishermen is upon us. Even if I don’t see everyone who I value often or even know you that well, just having positive, kind, and friendly people in this region’s web makes us all stronger and creates an atmosphere of health for our children.
I experience so much joy when my friends from the fishing fleet arrive in the Bay. A culture of sharing, storytelling, knowledge spreading sets in anew and I feel a sense of pride in my communities. We all contribute to the world around us and our actions send out ripples of feelings. So while I may not see your kindness directly or even hear of it maybe you inspired someone else to be kind or lifted someone up who was down, and those ripples will continue and together we make our communities webs strong. In small towns it is easy to identify positive contributors in our webs and when someone leaves, a gap opens, but the beautiful thing about living in a cyclical society is often someone new comes who fills that gap or contributes in a wholly new way that reinforces us all.
I suppose I could continue to muse more but really I just wanted to share that I have been thinking about this a lot lately, community, what we all can do to improve it, oh and shortbread… Spruce Tip Shortbread that is! Recently, a crew of folks came to Dillingham as part of a photography endeavor and I was lucky enough to show them the subsistence beach I fish on, share some fresh caught King salmon, and bake for them one of these…
I love the crumbly, buttery texture of a good shortbread, and with the bright fresh flavor of spruce tips you have a palette of possibilities. I like to top my shortbread with whatever jam I have in the pantry or make a fresh compote, such as a rhubarb or strawberry – both produce options that are in season currently. Making a compote is as easy as cooking down the fruit over medium heat, stirring often, with sugar to taste, until it thickens. Pictured is one of fresh rhubarb and raspberries from last summer’s harvest.
Spruce tips are harvested as new growth on the end of spruce bows with light brown papery coverings garnishing the tips, they are bright green and soft in texture unlike the fully mature ends that harden and become pokey. They can be picked throughout June and sometimes into early July depending on climate and sun exposure. In addition to this shortbread, spruce tips make a light vitamin c rich tea if brewed, can be pickled, or even sautéed.
Spruce Tip Shortbread Tarts
makes one 10-12 inch tart
- 1/2 cup finely chopped spruce tips (clean first of any papery covering, chopping is easily done in a food processor)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 Tablespoons butter, softened
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 large egg
- 1 cup all purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
In a the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, on medium speed cream together the butter, sugar, and spruce tips until light and fluffy. This will take approximately 2-3 minutes. Add in the vanilla and mix until just blended. Crack in the egg and beat an additional 2 minutes.
Meanwhile mix together the dry ingredients of flour, baking powder, and salt. Reduce speed to low and carefully add in the flour mixture, mix only until all traces of flour are gone. Turn out the dough onto the prepared baking sheet, the dough will be quite sticky. Using a rubber spatula or damp fingers spread the dough into a 10-12 inch round or 10×8 inch rectangle or even thickness. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and for at least refrigerate 2 hours and up to 24.
When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350F. Remove plastic wrap and bake in the middle rack position of the oven 30-40 minutes turning pan once halfway through baking. Allow to cool on a wire rack completely before topping with jam or compote.
This Spruce Tip Shortbread can also be prepared several hours prior to serving, once cooled keep covered with a light towel and top near to the time of before eating to avoid a soggy texture.
Shortbread recipe adapted from Clotilde Dusoulier’s gorgeous book The French Market Cookbook.