grapefruit-fennel shortbread cookies

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

Hello people!

Are you in the holiday spirit yet? Despite having a mountain of work to finish this month, I’m feeling especially festive. Since we’ll be spending the holidays in Paris this year, Beau and I have decided to skip getting a tree. We haven’t strung any lights. And there are no prettily wrapped presents waiting to be opened on Christmas morning.

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

What I have done is: 
1) Play a lot of Christmas music. (There’s nothing like singing along to All I Want for Christmas is You by Mariah Carey at the top of your lungs. Sorry neighbors!)  

2) Host a holiday pop-up dinner with my friend Kyle where I got to feed a bunch of awesome folks. I never get tired of seeing peple eat, drink and laugh around my table.

3) Spend time with good friends (which might have led to a few too many rounds of late-night Manhattans).

4) Bake like a crazy person. I’ve made waaay too many of these kuri squash and olive oil cakes, a mountain of seeded toffee bark, jars of coconut curd, stacks of these cheesy crackers, 6 batches of these German spice cookies. And last but not least, these grapefruit-fennel shortbread cookies.

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

These cookies weren’t originally on the agenda. But when Holly and Natalie from The Modern Proper emailed to say they were putting together a #calmandbrightcookienight, I said I was in. Because there’s no such thing as too many cookies at the holidays!

These turned out to be my favorite of all the homemade holiday gifts I've made this year. They’re subtly sweet with a bright hit of citrus. But it’s the herbaceous fennel that seals the deal for me. If you like sweets with a little savory twist, these guys are for you. 

As always, I hope you’ll make this recipe your own. Cook them as the recipe directs or get creative and try a different citrus (I’m thinking meyer lemon would be stellar) or different spice. Chop up candied citrus and throw it in the batter along with a handful of nuts. Glaze. Don’t glaze. Roll them in sanding sugar before baking. Or give them a dip in some melted chocolate. It’s up to you. 

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on
grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

For even more sweet inspiration join the #calmandbrightcookienight celebration! Below is a list of all the bakers contributing to the festivities. If you've been having trouble figuring out what to bake this year, we’ve got you covered. Check out all these gorgeous holiday cookies--hopefully you’ll find a new favorite blogger or two to follow! 

Wishing you all a Calm and Bright holiday,


The Modern Proper | Coconut Thumbprint Cookies with Salted Caramel
Wood and Spoon | Candied Walnut Chocolate Chip Cookies
Floating Kitchen | Chocolate Peppermint Thumbprint Cookies 
Brewing Happienss | Mint Chocolate Gingerbread Cookies 
The Vintage Mixer | Ginger Creams with Browned Butter Icing 

Wu Haus | Raw Vegan Gingerbread Cookie Sandwiches
The Almond Eater | Homemade Almond Biscotti
Chocolate + Marrow | Brown Butter Gingerbread Madeleines   
Hungry Girl Por Vida | Lemon Pistachio Linzer Cookies
Honestly YUM | Ricciarelli (Italian Almond Cookies) 

Husbands That Cook | Chocolate Sugar Cookies
The Judy Lab | Sea Salt Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies
Gather and Dine | Chocolate Almond Spelt Cookies
Betty S Liu | Cardamom Persimmon Cookies with Olive Oil Dark Chocolate Ganache
Harvest and Honey | Milk & Cookies

Bakerita | Chocolate Rugelach (gluten free + refined sugar free) 
The Fauxmartha | Snowball Cookies
The Kitchen Paper | Soft Toffee Cookies
Life Is But A Dish | Chocolate Peppermint Cream Cookies
Oh Honey Bakes | Pomegranate Pistachio and Almond Biscotti 

The Brick Kitchen | Coconut Raspberry Wagon Wheels
Alexandra Cooks | Classic Cream Cheese Cutout Cookies
Hello My Dumpling | Ginger Viennese Whirl Cookies with Matcha Passion Fruit Filling
Snixy Kitchen | Peppermint Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies
Tending the Table | Almond Macaroons with Satsuma Marmalade

PDX Food Love | Chocolate Bourbon Swirl Meringues
Lasting Ingredient | Lemon Lime Shortbread
Heart Beet Kitchen | Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies
Carly Diaz | Dark Chocolate Pistachio Shortbread Cookie
Cloudy Kitchen | Early Grey Shortbread
Lena’s Kitchen Blog | Shortbread Cookies Three Ways 

Grapefruit-Fennel Shortbread Cookies

  • 9 oz. (2 cups plus 2 tablespoons) all-purpose flour, plus additional for rolling and shaping
  • 2 oz. (1/2 cup) cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons finely ground fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 9 oz. (2 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3 oz. (6 tablespoons) sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely-grated grapefruit zest (from 1 large grapefruit)
  • ¼ cup freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 1 recipe Grapefruit Glaze (recipe below)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced candied grapefruit or orange zest (recipe below)

*Notes: Rolling shortbread cookies out can be challenging if your dough is too cold or too warm. The trick is to check it frequently once you’ve removed it from the fridge and to roll it when it’s just pliable but still cool to the touch. If the edges crack immediately when you roll it, it’s too cold. Just push the cracks back together and let the dough warm up a bit more. If the dough gets too warm and wants to stick to your work surface and pin, place it back in the fridge to firm up a bit before proceeding. 

- Alternately, if you don’t want to roll the dough out, you can roll the dough into a log and go the slice-and-bake route.

- Feel free to use store-bought candied citrus peel to garnish these. (If you’re in Seattle, PFI has really good quality candied citrus around the holidays.) If you’d like to make your own, the recipe is below.

- These cookies would be delicious made with other citrus fruits and/or spices. You may need to adjust the amount of zest and juice up or down a bit depending on how tart or bitter your fruit is. 

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch, fennel and salt. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth, 1-2 minutes.  Add the sugar and continue to cream until smooth, 2-3 more minutes. Add the zest and juice and mix just to combine. On low speed, gradually add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Mix for 30 seconds more.

Spoon half of the dough into the middle of a large piece of plastic wrap. With lightly floured hands, gently pat the dough into a ½-inch thick round. Wrap tightly and refrigerate until firm. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

When firm, remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 5-10  minutes. Remove from the plastic wrap and place on a lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on top of the dough and on your rolling pin. Roll to ¼-inch thickness, rotating the dough often and flouring as needed to make sure it doesn’t stick to your work surface. Cut to desired shape, periodically flouring your knife or cookie cutter so the dough doesn’t stick. Transfer to a parchment-lined sheet pan and freeze solid. (I know all this chilling and shaping and freezing may sound a bit fussy, but it will keep your cookies from slumping or spreading when you bake them. Freezing your dough = the key to pretty cookies and pie crusts.)

Bring your dough scraps together into a ball and chill briefly before re-rolling and cutting more cookies. You can re-roll your scraps twice. More than that will start make your cookies tough.

Preheat your oven to 350°F. Place the cookies at least 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan (not the one you froze them on--that will prolong the bake time). Bake for 10 minutes. Rotate your pan(s) and continue to bake until the bottom edges are just golden brown, about 4 minutes more. Take care not to overcook the cookies.

Transfer the sheet pan to a wire rack to cool for 5 minutes. Then transfer cookies to the wire rack to cool. When completely cool, dip your cookies face-down in the grapefruit glaze and top with sliced candied citrus peel if desired.

Makes about 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.

Grapefruit Glaze

  • 16 oz (about 4 cups) powdered sugar, sifted

  • 3-4 tablespoons freshly-squeezed grapefruit juice

Place the sifted sugar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in 3 tablespoons of the juice. If the glaze seems too thick, add more juice, one teaspoon at a time. You want a glaze that flows like honey and briefly forms a ribbon on the surface when you pour it from a spoon. 

This will keep for several days if you place a sheet of plastic wrap directly on the surface of the glaze before tightly wrapping the whole bowl in plastic wrap.

Makes about 1 cup of glaze.

Candied Citrus Peel

  • 8 large lemons or 4 oranges or 2 grapefruit

  • 2 cups granulated sugar, plus additional for rolling if desired

grapefruit fennel shortbread cookies on

Using a sharp paring knife, slice along the curve of each citrus fruit from top to bottom cutting through the peel but not into the fruit (make 4 cuts for lemons, 6 for oranges or 8 for grapefruit). Use your fingers to remove the peel from the fruit. If the pith is thick, remove some of it by flattening the piece of peel and slicing horizontally. Be careful not to remove all of the pith or you will have flimsy little pieces of candied zest. Cut each piece of peel lengthwise into 1/4-inch-wide strips. 

Place the sliced peel in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring the water to the boil and then drain. This removes excess bitterness from the peel. Repeat this process at least two times. Taste the peels, if they are still bitter for your taste, repeat one more time.

Place the sugar in a saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to the boil. Add the peels, reduce heat and cook at a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peels are translucent and soft, 45-60 minutes. The time will vary based on the thickness of the peels.

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the strips of peel to a metal cooling rack set over a parchment-lined sheet pan. When dry, roll in sugar if desired. Candied peels will keep for several weeks in an airtight container.

Makes about 2 ½ cups.