Ginger & Sichuan Peppercorn Shortbread Hearts

Valentine’s Day. Love it or hate it, there’s no getting away from it- even here I’m afraid. BUT I am hoping to give you something a little bit different in the recipe department. Heart-shaped and pastel-pink hued? Yes. However that’s where the predictability ends- or at least I’m hoping you think so too.

These started inception as…well…I was hankering for something sweet in between grocery deliveries. I wish I could come up with a more romantic, Earth-shattering epiphany than that but alas, no. My recipe for shortbread has been tried, approved and is a breeze to rustle up in a hurry. The instantly seductive baking phrase comes to mind, ” Quick and with minimal ingredients“. So in an effort to kill two birds with one stone, I got to thinking of doing a Valentine’s Day recipe post on shortbread.

So how can I make it “Valentine-sy”? Heart-shaped chocolate chip cookies just didn’t cut it for me. and so the mental gears turned. I had recently stocked up the pantry of some baking ingredients. “Livin’ the lockdown” dream has me currently baking every couple days- can we say “Therapy Baking”? Anyway as part of a restock I had some crystalised (candied) ginger going spare. I have a love/ hate relationship with this ingredient. Whilst I absolutely LOVE it’s mellow, slow-burning, sweet heat (especially in combination with dark chocolate) and so that was at the front of my mind. Pink peppercorns was my initial selection for the next feature ingredient. My worry, however, was that it falls slightly into the territory of over-familiarity, bordering on a go-to spicy contributor to desserts. Sichuan peppercorns are ideal to fill this gap, lending their signature tongue-tingling sensation as an extra boon without the visual fanfare.

That, for me, was enough going on internally. I try to limit the flavors within a bake in order to stop them becoming a jumbled cacophony on the tongue. I was still thinking of how to finish the flavor experience that I had in mind. And of course- rose hits me! Now I don’t mean some random pensioner walking by whacks me with her Kate Spade tote- I mean Rose the flavor. Sure it can be a tricky ingredient to use but when handled properly it can really bring a decadent statement to a bake. And let’s face it (at the risk of being slightly predictable) what’s Valentine’s Day with roses in some form? I’ve combined it here with an understated addition of white chocolate to help compliment the heat from the spices baked into the shortbread, stopping it from sitting on your tongue too long and dominating your palette.

Finishing and decorating your baked shortbread cookie is entirely at your own discretion. Leave them plain and simple, or as I did add a few choice sprinkles and some edible glitter themed in the spirt of the amorous season. See? I can do pretty.

Whatever you choose to do, whether it’s make these and share them, or keep the all to yourself I hope you enjoy them.

Stay safe, and mask up.

*Updated to include Chocolate version as featured on Food Network Canada’s “Great Chocolate Showdown”.

Ginger & Sichuan Peppercorn Shortbread Hearts #recipe #greatchocolateshowdown

Makes 16 heart cookies (I use a 2″ heart shape cutter), or 24 if cut into fingers

Ingredients

  • 1 2/3 cups AP Flour
  • 1/3 Semolina
  • 2 Tablespoons Rice Flour (if you’re making a Chocolate shortbread version sub here with cocoa powder)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
  • 1/2 cup and 2 tablespoons fine sugar, divided
  • 1/2 tspn Kosher salt
  • 1 cup/ 2 sticks salted butter, cold and cubed
  • 1/2 cup crystalized (candied) ginger, chopped in to small pieces
  • 2 tspn ground ginger
  • 2 tspn Sichuan peppercorns, toasted and crushed/ ground

To decorate

  • 3oz White chocolate, broken into pieces (use Dark chocolate for Chocolate shortbread version)
  • 1 tspn coconut oil
  • 1/2 tspn rosewater (omit for Chocolate shortbread version)
  • Candy sprinkles, dragees to suit

Method

Shortbread Cookies

  1. Lightly grease and line a 9″ x 12″ traybake tin
  2. In a large bowl combine the flour, semolina, rice flour, cornstarch, sugar, salt, round ginger and ground Sichuan peppercorns. Whisk together to further combine
  3. Add in the cubed butter and rub together with your fingertips, or a pastry cutter, until the mixture is just beginning to bind together. Every so often do a  quarter turn of the bowl to make sure you’re using all the dry mixture. You’ll want a texture somewhere between breadcrumbs and damp sand before you stop. Be wary of overworking the butter into the mixture – you want to avoid a dough that is feels slimey from the butter melting too much into the dry ingredients
  4. Add in the chopped crystalized (candied) ginger and stir lightly to combine
  5. Tip the crumb mixture into your prepared tin and press the dough so that it forms a solid layer. Level the surface with the back of a spoon or measuring cup, making sure the mixture is evenly spread and uniform.
  6. Refrigerate for 30 mins minimum
  7. Preheat your oven to 325°F
  8. Remove the chilled dough from your fridge and using your cookie cutter mark 16 heart shapes by pushing the cutter roughly halfway into the dough. You don’t have to go the full way through to the bottom of the pan. If you’re not making heart-shaped cookies, you can use a knife or pizza cutter score the shortbread into 24 rectangular pieces (2 cuts by 7 cuts) taking care not to actually cut the full way through
  9. Bake the dough for 30- 35 minutes or until a very pale golden brown, and deeper golden brown at the edges
  10. Remove from the oven and using your heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut fully through the baked shortbread . The dough in the cutter should come away, giving you a heart-shaped cookie. On a wire cooling rack carefully push out the cookie. Repeat and leave to cool fully*
  11. (If you’re not using a cookie cutter simply cut with a knife or pizza cutter at the score lines you previously made, cut the the bottom of the pan to complete the cut the full way through. Leave the full slab of shortbread to cool in the tin for 15 minutes. Carefully lift the fingers out of the tin with a palette knife or the parchment paper overhang and finish cooling on a wire rack)

To decorate

  1. In a small bowl, set over a pan of simmering water, combine the white chocolate, coconut oil and rose water
  2. Heat over a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, until the chocolate is fully melted and all ingredients are combined
  3. Turn off the heat and carefully remove the bowl
  4. Dip the shortbread hearts or bars into the melted chocolate and set on a rack or tray lined with baking parchment or silpat mat. (If you find you’re chocolate is becoming stiff and hard to work with, place the bowl of chocolate back into the hot water pan and leave to re-melt to a more workable state
  5. Whilst the chocolate is still setting finish decorating in your preferred way
  6. Because of the oil in the chocolate, fully decorated cookies should be stored in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to a week. Separate layers of cookies using baking parchment. To serve remove the cookies about 15-20mind before serving – or just eat straight from the fridge!

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