Third of my 3 holiday bakes. Buttery, salty, with a complex taste from the fennel pollen. Adapted from this recipe which in turn attributes it to Kir Jensen, operator of a Portland food truck.
2 c all purpose flour
1/4 c finely ground cornmeal (corn flour)
1/2 t sea salt
8 oz (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c plus 1 T sugar
1 t finely grated lemon zest
1 3/4 teaspoons fennel pollen*
2 large egg yolks, room temperature
Sea salt for topping
Method: Thoroughly mix flour, cornmeal and salt in a bowl. In a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat together butter and sugar until well-blended, about 1 minute. Scrape down bowl, add lemon zest, fennel pollen, and egg yolks one at a time, beating just to combine. Scrape down bowl. With mixer on low speed, add in dry ingredients and mix just to combine.
Transfer dough to a dry surface, form into a ball, and divide into half. Shape each half into a 12-inch log, then square off the sides by pressing the log into the work surface and rotating 90 degrees. Wrap each log completely in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least 3 hours.
Heat oven to 350°F. Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper. Cut each log crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Place shortbreads an inch apart on the parchment paper. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Bake until barely toasted, about 20-25 minutes, rotating pans halfway through. (They will hardly color on top but the bottoms will brown slightly.) Let shortbreads cool on the sheet pans or transfer very carefully with a spatula to cooling racks. (They will be soft and delicate when they come out of the oven, but will become harder when they cool.) Keeps a week in a tightly sealed container.
Note: the original recipe rolled the shortbreads in superfine sugar before placing them in the sheet pans. I left it out because I wanted the fennel and salt flavors to be more prominent.
* I baked this recipe specifically because I had some fennel pollen on hand. I suppose you could substitute a slightly larger volume of fennel seed; if you do that, grind it in a food processor so it doesn’t interfere with the smooth texture of the shortbreads.