Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Chocolate Fennel Seed Shortbread

Fennel seeds are used as a mouth freshener in India.  Isn't it interesting how some cultures use mint and some use fennel seeds?  I was wondering what other herbs and spices were used as mouth fresheners worldwide, so I googled.  Unfortunately I couldn't really find what's used in different countries, but apparently many different spices can be used: cardamom pods, cinnamon, cloves... So next time post-garlic bread/pre-smooching session, you can just grab the closest spice and chew on it.   Basil also works apparently.  But it also depends on your partner - not everyone enjoys cinnamon, for instance.  They may prefer garlic breath in that case. 

Fennel and chocolate.  Chocolate works with anise flavors.  You know what I was thinking? Chocolate, fennel seeds and orange.  I don't know, maybe a chocolate mousse with a crunch fennel seed topping and an orange sorbet.  Maybe some orange crumbs, candied citrus zest.  Perhaps a fennel seed praline.  Chocolate fennel seed bark?  Chocolate fennel seed truffle coated in chocolate orange ganache?  Served with some fennel seed crackers? So many possibilities.

So these are just normal chocolate shortbread, but right before baking, they're sprinkled with some fennel seeds and demarara sugar - well, they were meant to be like that but then I couldn't find any coarser sugar granules so I sprinkled it with some other sugars and then I realized they weren't sweet enough and I sprinkled some more sugar on top and it just all looked quite messy.  So don't do that, just follow what I said and your cookies will look nicer than mine.

1/2 tbsp fennel seeds
1 cup plain flour
1/2 cup icing sugar
113g / 1 stick butter, chilled and cut into small cubes
1/4 cup cocoa powder
pinch of salt
demerara sugar or some other sugar that's quite big in terms of granule size

Preheat oven to 150C.  Mix flour, sugar cocoa and salt in  a large bowl. 

With cold hands, add the butter and rub it in until the dough kind of comes together, add just the smallest splash of cold water if you need.  Shape the dough into a ball.

Flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and let it rest in the fridge for an hour.

Preheat oven to 150C.  Roll out the dough to about 5mm thick.  Cut out desired shapes, space them apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.

Crush the fennel seeds roughly with a mortar and pestle and distribute evenly on top of all the cookies along with a sprinkling of coarse sugar .
Bake cookies until firm to the touch, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on wire racks.

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