Fennel seed shortbread coins
Servings: 50 bite-sized biscuits
These make a perfect bomboniere or festive gift, whatever you’re celebrating, whether it’s Christmas, Chanukah or even Chrismukah (especially Chrismukah!). Treating the dough as you would a log of gnocchi, slicing off 2cm rounds, then flattening into coin-shaped biscuits, is a brill way of baking bite-sized ‘coins’ for Chanukah ‘Gelt’ (usually made of chocolate, but why not shortbread!) or popping into little bags or jarsa to give to colleagues or family for Christmas.PRINT
- 225 g unsalted butter softened
- 85 g caster sugar
- ¼ tsp vanilla bean paste or extract optional but excellent
- ¼ tsp salt flakes
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 225 g plain all purpose flour + 2-3 tbsp for rolling
- 115 g almond meal
Fennel sugar coating
- ½ cup caster sugar
- ¼ tsp reserved ground fennel seeds
- In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment or using electric beaters, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. This should take 2-3 minutes for the sugar to absorb and not feel gritty when you rub some between your fingers.
- Meanwhile, coarsely grind the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, scoop out half of the coarsely ground seeds and reserve. Then grind the rest until it’s a fine powder, reserving a quarter of the finest ground seeds for the sugar coating.
- To the creamed butter and sugar, add the coarsely and finely ground seeds (besides the sugar coating ¼) along with the vanilla and salt flakes and then beat for another 30 seconds. Sprinkle in the plain flour and almond meal and beat on a medium speed to combine for a minute or so until the dough is a uniform colour, stopping and scraping down the bowl to incorporate halfway through.
- Dust a little flour over a clean bench, then turn out the dough and shape it into a smooth ball. Don’t add too much flour - just enough to lightly coat the bench and stop it from sticking. Flatten the dough into a disc and pop in a container and into the fridge for 10-20 minutes - or overnight if making ahead of time.
- When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 170℃ (150℃ fan). Line a large baking tray (light-coloured, if possible), or two smaller ones.
- Cut the chilled dough into four equal parts. Working one piece at a time, dust your clean bench with a little more flour and roll into a 2cm diameter log. Use a sharp knife to cut 2cm discs all the way along the log. Pop onto your lined tray and gently squash down to form a flatter round ‘coin’ about 1cm high. Repeat until all of the dough is finished.
- Pop into the preheat oven for 15 minutes, turning the tray around halfway through in case your oven has any hot-spots. They’ll be lightly golden on top when ready. Pull out and leave them to cool on the tray for 5 or so minutes.
- While the biscuits cool, pop the caster sugar and reserved ground fennel seed onto a flat plate or tray with a lip and mix together with your fingertips. When biscuits have cooled and firmed up, toss each in the fennel sugar mix, a few at a time, then transfer to another tray or container without a lid.
- Once completely cooled, store in an airtight container or pop into gifting jars for your lucky recipients.
Fennel is a fabulous aromatic addition, but if you’ve not got any in the pantry, rather than popping to the shops, use what you’ve got - like ground cinnamon, cardamom or even some mixed spice! Half a teaspoon of any of the above will do it! You can also use icing sugar instead of caster sugar in the sugar coating for a traditional ‘snowy’ effect. These are lovely and buttery and should last for a couple of weeks - particularly if stored in the fridge. If you’re grinching them all to yourself, you can also make them last up to 3 months if you portion them out and freeze them, allowing them to come to room temperature as you need.