We’re finally back in Australia and I have an astonishing backlog of travel posts that I’m planning to put up soon. I’m not even done with the Japan series yet, with several entries on Koyasan and Osaka still waiting to be written. And don’t even get me started on Singapore! I have plans to talk about Sentosa’s sandy beaches, PARKROYAL on Pickering, Chinatown in the midst of Chinese New Year, Naumi Hotel, The Pinnacle@Duxton, Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya, Fort Canning Park, Tiong Bahru Bakery, MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and so much more. It’s ridiculous. I guess that’s what you get for spending two months in another country and actually doing something different almost every single day – you collect a lot of memories!
It’s been awhile since I’ve put up a recipe, so here’s one for super cheesy melt-in-your-mouth shortbread with crushed fennel seeds for that accompanying herby taste. There’s a crumbly, floury, sweet-savoury thing going on with these biscuits, and the flavour you get is indeed very powerful and complex. Parmesan is easy to work with because it’s a hard cheese. You can either buy the cheese pre-grated or do it yourself (way more fun) – just note that the finer you grate the cheese, the more the flavour will seep into the dough.
This recipe has a bit of preparation involved as the buttery, malleable dough requires a couple of hours of chilling to firm up before being cut and baked. Other than that, everything is quite straightforward. Just prior to baking, brush on some olive oil and embellish the tops with some fragrant fennel seeds, sea salt and grated cheese to complete the look. Then stick ’em in the oven and wait for your kitchen to smell absolutely amazing. They’re done when they turn a gorgeous golden colour.
Savoury Cheese & Fennel Shortbread with Olive Oil + Sea Salt
adapted from Valleybrink Road’s recipe; makes approx. 30 shortbread.
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
½ cup icing sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¾ teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
extra sea salt
extra grated cheese
extra crushed fennel seeds
- In a large bowl, combine the flour, grated cheese and ground fennel seeds. Mix well, set aside.
- In a separate bowl, beat the butter until smooth, then add the icing sugar, pepper and salt. Continue to beat the mixture until light and fluffy.
- Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix with a fork until the dough starts to come together. Use your fingers to knead the dough for a few moments, then gather everything into a large ball.
- Divide the dough ball into equal halves and roll each portion into a log with a cross section about 1¼” wide.
- Wrap both logs in plastic and place in the fridge to chill for about 2 hours.
- When ready to bake, preheat oven to 180°C and line a large baking tray with non-stick baking paper.
- Remove logs from fridge and, with a sharp knife, cleanly slice thin rounds (slightly over ¼” thick) and lay them on the baking tray.
- Gently brush the unbaked shortbread with some extra virgin olive oil and generously sprinkle the extra sea salt, ground fennel seeds and grated cheese over the tops.
- Bake cookies for about 18-20 minutes, or until they start to turn golden.
- Remove from oven and let stand on tray for 10 minutes before carefully transferring the shortbread to a wire rack to cool completely.