Thursday, February 23, 2012

Parmesan Shortbread with Fennel and Sea Salt

Oh bright, beautiful, warm sun! After a dark and rainy weekend we are finally getting some sun here in Seattle so I jumped on the chance to take some good photos while there was still light in the house.  Today's recipe my boyfriend declared unequivocally "the best".  It is from Bon Appetit magazine.  Their most recent issue has a bunch of bread recipes that I am dying to test out.  If they all are as good as this one is we're in for an awesome month.  

Shortbread has always been one of my favorite (if not my absolute favorite) cookies.  It's also one of the first things I learned to bake.  In all this time though I have never encountered a savory shortbread recipe.  Oh man, I did not know what I was missing.    This recipe has all the sweet, crumbly, buttery-ness of a shortbread cookie, with the added savory deliciousness of parmesan cheese and the liquorice like taste of the fennel.  MMMMM.   

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour plus more

  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)

  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds

  • 1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt or other coarse salt (I used grey Celtic sea salt)

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • Preparation:

    • Using an electric mixer, beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and kosher salt. Reduce speed to medium and beat, occasionally scraping down sides of bowl, until light and fluffy, 4–5 minutes. Add flour and cheese. Reduce mixer speed to low and beat mixture just until dough comes together.
    • 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.
    • 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 small bowl; stir in sea salt. Set fennel salt aside.
    • Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Roll out dough on a lightly floured surface to a 10x8-inch rectangle about 1/4-inch thick. Cut in thirds crosswise, then cut each third crosswise into 6 rectangles. Arrange cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt.
    • Bake, rotating sheet halfway through, until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), 20–24 minutes. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room tem-perature. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.

    Notes:  I did all the mixing by hand and it came out just fine, you just have to do a bit more work and spend more time mixing.  I crushed the fennel and salt together in my mortar.  

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