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I cannot believe that December is upon us! It’s unbelievable that the year is drawing to a close and we are hurtling rapidly towards Christmas and some much needed holidays.

In realising that the festive season is moving to full swing, I also realised that I needed to get my festive baking on (you can check out some of my other festive treats here).

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I recently attended a cooking course at the Essential Ingredient (thanks for the gift S, M and J!), in the context of discussing his ‘sophisticated chocolate desserts’, Lindt master chocolatier Thomas Schnetzler also shared his recipe for gingerbread spice mix. The mix was heady, musty and quite savoury in aroma and I decided immediately that I needed to make it and to find a vehicle to use it.

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This weekend I finally made the mix and put it to use in a crumbly chocolate shortbread from Thomas Keller. Mr M and I found the biscuits undeniably moreish and had a lot of difficulty preventing ourselves from eating them. I took the leftover biscuits into the office to share with colleagues and came to a startling observation – these are divisive biscuits. Some of my workmates loved them and others were left cold. I think the issue was the amount of spice, and in the recipe below I’ve made some suggestions which should make the recipe an all around crowd pleaser. But personally, when I make these again I wouldn’t change a thing… the savoury, aniseedy notes of the spice mix were perfect to me!

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Spiced chocolate shortbread

The spice mix is adapted from a recipe from Thomas Schnetzler. In the end, I tweaked the recipe a bit – reducing the quantities and amping up the ginger and cinnamon to suit my tastes. The shortbread recipe is from Thomas Keller’s AdHoc at Home. The idea to marry the two together was all me.

The festive spice recipe will yield around half a small jar – but it should be enough for most of your festive baking needs. The number of biscuits you get will depend on the size of your cutter and the thickness you roll them out. I recommend rolling the biscuits thicker than I did, as the thicker biscuits were far more delicious. I used mostly a very small cutter and had more than 3 dozen to share.

Festive spice

15g coriander seeds
15g star anise
20g ground cinnamon
8g cloves
5g nutmeg
10g ground ginger
5g fennel seeds

  • Toast the coriander and star anise in a dry frypan over low heat for a few minutes, until they start to smell delicious. Be careful not to burn the spices.
  • Transfer the coriander, star anise and remaining spices into a spice grinder/coffee grinder or other small mixer and blitz until the mixture is a fairly fine powder.
  • Pass the mixture through a sieve to get rid of any larger spice pieces. Transfer to an airtight container, ready to use for festive baking!

Spiced chocolate shortbread 

170g caster sugar
225g plain flour (or 275g spelt flour)
80g dutch cocoa
2 tbsp festive spice (Note: you could reduce the spice here to 1 tbsp, just add in an extra tbsp of cocoa)
1/2 tsp bicarbonate soda
2 pinches of salt
210g butter – cut into small cubes, at room temperature.

  • Place all the ingredients except the butter in the mixing bowl. Briefly blitz with electric beaters so everything is combined.
  • Gradually add in cubes of butter. The mixture will at first have a sandy texture, then begin to cling to the paddle.
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  • Continue mixing a little longer until the mixture no longer looks dry. Stop beating the mixture before it becomes a single solid mass.
  • Dump the mixture on a board and bring it together, kneading with the heel of your hands. Cover in cling film and refrigerate for an hour.
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  • Pre-heat the oven to 350 F/ 175 C.
  • Cut the dough in half, then place half the dough between 2 sheets of baking paper (pop the other half back in the fridge). Roll the dough out to be about 1/4 of an inch or just over half a centimitre thick. Note that I rolled mine a little too thinly.
  • Cut into pieces or use a cookie cutter.

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  • Transfer the shapes onto a plate lined with baking paper and refrigerate for 15 minutes. While these biscuits are in the fridge continue rolling the leftover pieces and the other part of the dough.
  • After the biscuits have been in the fridge for 15 minutes transfer them on the baking paper to a baking tray – leave them a couple of centimetres apart.
  • Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, until the biscuits no longer look shiny. Let them cool slightly on the tray before transferring to a wire rack to cool.
  • Enjoy!

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