Sunday, July 15, 2012

Parmesan Shortbread with Fennel and Smoked Sea Salt

Every few weeks Denise sends me a stuffed envelope of newspaper cuttings and recipes that she knows I would love. Without doubt I always do and this time the winner recipe (for me) was this shortbread recipe. Shortbread is a perfect cookie to bake, as we are all tea drinkers and my in-laws are strict vegetarians, making this is a nice treat to bake for them. The fennel topping goes great with their taste preferences for all things Indian along with their evening cup of Indian chai.

The credit of this recipe goes to Bon Appétit, thank you! The only change I made was to use smoked sea salt as opposed to regular sea salt. 

Any salty hard cheese, such as an aged Manchego, Grana Padano, or Mimolette, would be a fine substitute for the Parmesan. This recipe is from Caitlin Williams Freeman's upcoming cookbook, The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee

Makes 18
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Maldon smoked sea salt
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil


  1. Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. 
  2. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt.
  3. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionaly scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. 
  4. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer to low and beat mixture until dough comes together.
  5. Wrap dough in plastic and flatten into a rectangle. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. Do ahead: Dough can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before continuing.
  6. Place fennel seeds in a resealable plastic freezer bag. Coarsely crush with a rolling pin or the bottom of a skillet. Alternatively, pulse in a spice mill until coarsely crushed. Transfer to a bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.
  7. Arrange a rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  8. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10x8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. 
  9. Cut until 18 equal rectangles. Arrange cookies on the prepared baking sheet, spacing 1-inch apart. Brush cookies generously with olive oil and then sprinkle with the fennel salt.
  10. Bake, rooting sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), 20–24 minutes. 
  11. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Do ahead: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

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