Super Fast and Easy Shortbread — With A Twist

These shortbread aren't like others.
These shortbread aren’t like others.

One-pan shortbread are by nature one of the fastest and simplest of cookies to bake.

This one is even quicker since there’s no need to wait for butter to soften beforehand. Nor the need for an electric mixer to cream the butter into submission. That’s because there’s no butter in this dough whatsoever, only olive oil that makes it extra lush tasting.

There’s also a flavor curve ball to it. Sure, you’ve had shortbread sprinkled with a touch of sea salt. But how about crowned with freshly ground black pepper, too?

“Salt and Pepper Olive Oil Shortbread” is a little sweet and a little savory. Plus, a whole lot delicious.

It’s from “Snacking Bakes” (Clarkson Potter, 2023), of which I received a review copy.

It’s the newest cookbook by Brooklyn-based Yossy Arefi, creator of the acclaimed blog, Apt. 2B Baking Co.

It’s sure to appeal to those who love to bake, but don’t enjoy overly complicated recipes. Instead, most of the recipes in this book can be made in less than one hour, and using one bowl.

What’s not to love about “Blueberry Cornmeal Cookies,” “Coffee-Glazed Molasses Bars,” “Cornmeal Carrot Cake,” and “Mixed Berry Tahini Cake”?

Fine sea salt and pepper get stirred into the dough made with flour, powdered sugar, and olive oil. The dough is then patted into a baking pan and given a final sprinkling of more sea salt, black pepper, and granulated sugar before going into the oven.

Once baked and cooled, you can break the shortbread into jagged, irregular pieces, if you like. Or if you want a neater look, it’s best to slice into squares or rectangles with a sharp knife while still warm.

Just out of the oven. I found that you get neater slices if you use a knife when the shortbread is still warm.
Just out of the oven. I found that you get neater slices if you use a knife when the shortbread is still warm.

This is a shortbread that bucks the norm, so it might not be for everyone. My husband wasn’t necessarily won over by the prickly warmth of the pepper. But then again, he’s a man, who when confronted by freezer shelves of ice cream at the store, will — nine times out of 10 — invariably come home toting vanilla.

If your tastes run a tad more adventurous, particularly if you don’t like your baked goods overly sweet, these cookies have an appealing unabashed individuality.

They possess a crunchy. slightly crumbly texture with a melting quality on the palate. They’re rich tasting, with measured sweetness, a hit of salt here and there, and the surprise warmth and sharpness of pepper.

Think of the taste of snappy, olive oil-rich, savory Italian breadsticks — but made with a pinch of sugar — and you get the drift.

Sweet, warmly spiced, and everything nice.
Sweet, warmly spiced, and everything nice.

Salt and Pepper Olive Oil Shortbread

(Makes one 8-by-8-inch pan)

2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; plus more for sprinkling

3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt

3/4 cup mild-tasting olive oil

1 tablespoon granulated sugar, for sprinkling

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Position a rack in the center of t he oven and preheat to 350°F. Coat an 8-by-8-inch baking pan with cooking spray or brush with oil. Line the pan with two crossed strips of parchment paper that hang over the sides.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, powdered sugar, pepper, and fine sea salt until smooth, stirring until no lumps remain in the sugar.

Add the oil and stir with a spatula until just combined.

Transfer the shortbread dough to the prepared pan and press it into an even layer with your hands or a flat-bottomed measuring cup. Top with the granulated sugar, a sprinkling of black pepper, and the flaky salt.

Bake the shortbread until golden brown and crisp, 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the shortbread cool in the pan set on a rack, then use the parchment paper to lift the shortbread out of the pan and cut into pieces or use your hands to break the shortbread into pieces. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

Flavor Variations:

Herbed Olive Oil Shortbread: Add about 2 tablespoons finely chopped woody herbs, such as thyme, rosemary, or sage, to the flour mixture.

Walnut Olive Oil Shortbread: Add 1/2 cup finely chopped toasted walnuts to the flour mixture.

Citrus Olive Oil Shortbread: Omit the pepper and add about 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon or orange zest when you add the olive oil.

From “Snacking Bakes” by Yossy Arefi

More Yossy Arefi Recipes to Enjoy: Soft Chocolate and Fig Cake

And: Minty Chocolate Malt Cake

And: Cherry and Poppy Seed Yogurt Cake

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