When we lived in New York, I would come into the city once or twice a week and began my outing by meeting Mr. S. for a cappuccino at Blue Bottle coffee in Rockefeller Center. We always shared a cookie as part of our java ritual. Fennel-Parmesan shortbread, a savory twist, quickly became a favorite of ours. I know, everyone has their favorite shortbread recipe but you really should give this one a try. Slightly sweet with a teensy bit of savory crunch from the fennel-salt topping. For me, it was the pleasant discovery of Parmesan quietly hitting my taste buds with every chew and dare I say, perfect with a cappuccino.
Makes about 21 cookies
adapted from The Blue Bottle Craft of Coffee
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoons sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour plus more
1 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt or other coarse salt
extra-virgin olive oil, for brushing
1. Beat butter in a medium bowl on low speed until smooth, 1–2 minutes. Add powdered sugar, pepper, and 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 7×10-inch rectangle about 1/2-inch thick. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours.
2. Coarsely crush fennel seeds with mortar and pestle or grind in a clean spice grinder. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in sea salt.
3. Preheat oven to 350f and arrange rack in center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
4. Remove plastic wrap from dough and cut into small rectangles. Place cookies on prepared baking sheet, spacing 1 inch apart. Brush cookies generously with oil, then sprinkle with fennel salt.
5. Bake 18 minutes until cookies are golden brown (flecks of cheese will be slightly darker), rotating sheet halfway through. Let cool on sheets for at least 10 minutes. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. The cookies will keep for 3 days.
The Culinary Chase’s Note: The dough can be refrigerated, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, for up to 5 days. These savory-sweet shortbread cookies are addictive! Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Enjoy!