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. Makes about 4 dozen shortbreads.
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.
** I’ve found it easier to do the final shaping after the dough is wrapped in plastic.