Olive Oil-Fennel Seed Shortbread & Almond-Tahini Cookies

Olive Oil-Fennel Seed Shortbread & Almond-Tahini Cookies

Not all of the great cooks at Sun Basket work in the kitchen. Brittany Howlett had a career as a pastry chef before she came on board to work as a liaison between our test kitchen and our procurement team, the folks who buy our ingredients. Lucky for us that she hasn't given up her love of baking. Recently she brought these cookies into the office to share. They're so good, we felt it would be wrong not to share the recipes with you. 

 
 
Almond-Tahini cookies
 
Makes about two dozen cookies
 
These paleo-friendly and gluten-free cookies are like a great wine—their flavor evolves the more you savor them. They bake only very lightly, emerging still tender within and just slightly firm around their edges. They continue to crisp as they cool on the sheet pans. Maldon salt helps bring out the nuances in the tahini and honey. If you have only one sheet pan, bake the cookies in batches.

Ingredients
1½ cups finely ground almond meal
½ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon tahini
¼ cup honey
1 vanilla bean pod or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt, optional

Tools
1 small bowl, 1 medium bowl, mixer (optional), 2 sheet pans, parchment paper

1. Make the cookie dough
Heat the oven to 350ºF and set the racks in the upper and middle thirds of the oven.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or in a medium bowl and using a wooden spoon, blend together the almond meal, baking soda, and kosher salt. 
In a small bowl, using a fork or spoon, stir together the tahini and honey.
On a work surface, using a sharp knife, split open the vanilla bean pod lengthwise and scrape the seeds into the bowl with the tahini-honey mixture. Alternatively, stir in the vanilla extract. 
Scrape the tahini-honey mixture into the almond meal mixture. With the machine on low speed or using a wooden spoon, mix to form a smooth dough.

2. Shape the cookies
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper or lightly grease them with oil.
Measure out level tablespoons of the dough; using your hands, roll the dough into 1-inch balls. Transfer the balls to the prepared sheet pan, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Using the palm of your hand or the flat bottom of a drinking glass, flatten each ball into a ¼-inch-thick round. Sprinkle the rounds with the Maldon sea salt, crushing the salt flakes between your finger tips.

3. Bake the cookies
Bake in the middle and upper thirds of the oven, rotating the pans once halfway through, until the cookies are golden brown and firm around the edges, 8 to 9 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes on the sheet pans.

4. Serve
Transfer the cookies to a serving plate. Serve at once, warm or at room temperature, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
 
Nutrition per serving (1 cookie): Calories: 40, Protein: 1 g, Total Fat: 3 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Saturated Fat: 0 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Carbohydrates: 3 g, Fiber: 0 g, Added Sugar: 1 g, Sodium: 20 mg

 

 

Olive Oil-Fennel Seed Shortbread

 
Makes about four dozen cookies
 
Shortbreads are surprisingly easy to make and very forgiving; they take well to all manner of flavorings. They're traditionally made with butter, but in this healthier spin, Brittany uses extra virgin olive oil. To give them even more complexity, she grinds whole fennel seeds with sugar before adding them to the dough, then stirs in fresh lemon zest for brightness. Use fragrant Meyer lemons, if you can find them.

Ingredients
2 lemons, preferably Meyer
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¾ cup sugar
2½ tablespoons fennel seeds
1 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing
1 teaspoon Maldon sea salt, optional

Tools
Zester, sifter or fine-mesh strainer, large bowl, food processor, 9-by-13-inch glass or metal baking dish, parchment paper

1. Make the shortbread dough
Heat the oven to 325ºF and set a rack in the center.
Zest the lemons.
Working over a large bowl, using a sifter or fine-mesh strainer, sift together the flour and salt. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl.
In a food processor, process the sugar and fennel seeds until the fennel is finely ground, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the fennel sugar and the lemon zest to the flour mixture and stir to combine. Using a spoon or your hands, form a well in the center. Pour the olive oil into the well, then stir to form a smooth dough.

2. Form the shortbread
Lightly grease the baking dish with olive oil. Line the dish with parchment paper.
Scrape the dough into the prepared baking dish and smooth with a spatula. Using a fork, pierce the dough all over. Sprinkle the rounds with the Maldon sea salt, crushing the salt flakes between your finger tips.

3. Bake and cut the shortbread
Bake in the center of the oven, rotating the baking dish once halfway through, until lightly golden brown, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

Using a sharp knife, cut the warm shortbread into 1-inch-thick strips, then diagonally from diamonds. Let cool completely.

4. Serve
Gently remove each cookie from the baking dish and transfer to a serving plate. Serve at once or store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
Nutrition per serving (1 cookie): Calories: 80, Protein: 1 g, Total Fat: 5 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 3.5 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g, Saturated Fat: 0.5 g, Cholesterol: 0 mg, Carbohydrates: 7 g, Fiber: 0 g, Added Sugar: 3 g, Sodium: 40 mg