Parmesan Shortbread with Black Pepper, Fennel and Sea Salt

This is a cookie so unique that I think tasters are perplexed into thinking they are in love with it. Here is the experience …

First, the smell – Parmesan, nutty and warm. Second, you get the sea salt, crunchy and ripe with minerals. Then, the butter, as the shortbread begins to melt in your mouth. Next, your first bite breaks apart the fennel seeds, releasing a soft anise flavor. After swallowing, the black pepper blooms with heat down your throat.

I just love savory cookies. I’ve made blue-cheese shortbread crackers and had all sorts of cheese coins since living in The South, and these little darlings make me think I’m on to something.

So delicious, especially in the afternoon, with a nice cup of tea. I prefer Earl Gray.

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine

Parmesan Shortbread with Black Pepper, Fennel Seed and Sea Salt

Ingredients:

  • 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
  • 1 cup finely grated Parmesan (about 2 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, crushed or pounded with mortar and pestle
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt (I used fleur de sel)
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

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 or parchment paper and shape into a long cube. Chill until firm, at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Dough can be made 5 days ahead. Keep chilled. 

Stir together fennel and sea salt. Set aside.

Arrange a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap from dough. Cut dough into cookies 1/4 inch thick.
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.

Enjoy, friends! xoxo
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4 responses to “Parmesan Shortbread with Black Pepper, Fennel and Sea Salt

  1. I love making my own crackers/savory shortbreads. Never tried the fennel though – sounds fantastic!

  2. They look really incredible – what an awesome flavouring. Delicious!

  3. {Main St. Cuisine}

    So glad I found you (I’m in NC also). I love savory shortbread. I’m sure these were just wonderful with the addition of the fennel seeds.

  4. A savory cookie. Love this idea and a great make ahead party idea.

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