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Entries in Black Pepper and Fennel Shortbread Crackers (1)

Thursday
May222014

Black Pepper and Fennel Shortbread Crackers

This is my basic shortbread recipe I use with many sweet combinations, now turned into a savory cracker.  Use the very best Parmigiano-Reggiano you can find, and please, please, grate it yourself.  You will get a much better texture, and a rich, nutty taste no cheese in a green box will render. Oh, and double the recipe.  You won’t be sorry.
Yield:  2 dozen cookies                                                                                      Oven:  325
2 sticks unsalted butter
4 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2-1/2 cups sifted flour
1-1/2 teaspoon whole fennel seed
1-1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • If you have a mortar and pestle, place the fennel in the bowl and crush with the pestle to grind slightly and release the oils of the seeds.  Grind the pepper fresh.  (I use a coffee grinder for all of my spice grinding, so I would put the whole peppercorns in the grinder until slightly more than coarsely ground, then add the fennel and pulse it just a few more times.  You want some texture, but you don’t want to choke.
  • Cut the cheese into ½ inch chunks and place in the bowl of a foodprocessor with the knife blade in place.  Turn on the blade and run until the cheese is extremely fine, and nearly sticking together.  But not quite.  You’ll know.
  • Add the flour to the bowl, and pulse a few times to incorporate.
  • Cut the butter into cubes about ¼ inch square.  (Slice down the stick lengthwise, turn the stick over and slice lengthwise again.  Then slice crosswise into ¼ inch cubes, sliding the cube off the knife and into the bowl of the food processor.  Spread the butter cubes around the bowl.  (Don’t use your fingers, use the knife in your hand.)
  • Pulse the blade about 20 times, until the mixture starts to come into a ball.  
  • Tear two sheets of waxed paper, about 18 inches long and lay out on your countertop.  Dump half of the mixture onto each sheet. 
  • With your hands, gently form a log with the dough, about 1-1/2 round and about 12 inches long.
  • Wrap the waxed paper around the log and work the dough a little more, making it as smooth, round and even as you can.  Fold over the ends, and chill in the refrigerator about 30 minutes.  You can even slip into the freezer and bake later, but wrap in foil so the dough doesn’t dry out.
  • When you are ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325.  
  • Slice the dough into 1/3 inch rounds, place on a cookie sheet at least an inch apart, and bake for about 20 minutes, until they turn golden brown.
  • Allow to cool on the baking sheet on a rack.
  • When completely cool, store in an airtight container.  They will last for several days.
  • (Ok, not in my house, but maybe in yours).