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Fennel seed sugar 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. 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.
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Ingredients 

  • Shortbread ‘Coins’
  • 225 g unsalted butter softened
  • 85 g caster sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract optional but excellent
  • ¼ teaspoon salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoon 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

Instructions 

  • 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 170C (150C 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.

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