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2 April 2015

Now I know what you're thinking. She's got it wrong this time. Very wrong. Shortbread is, in it's very essence, buttery and sugary and melt-in-the-mouth delicious. Every bite should be like a warm, comforting, never-ever-changes hug from your grandma, if it's possible for a biscuit to be such a thing. Well, these little chaps are still a big hug of buttery goodness, if a little more slap on the back than warm embrace.

There are a lot of (strange, deluded) people out there who claim to "not really do sweets." Well, I'll keep my thoughts on that to myself for risk of causing offence, but it's certainly true that baking isn't - and should never be perceived as - a pudding lovers pursuit only. The irony of my blog name in this context is not lost on me.

Savoury baking is woefully underrated - not least by me - and there are so many delicious ingredients which can take your baking to new levels. Fresh herbs, spices and beautiful seasonal vegetables are all begging to be engulfed in snowy white doughs and pastries.

I may carry the burden of a criminally sweet tooth, but a lot of my family and friends are much keener on my savoury creations - and these were no exception. Substituting most of the butter for soft, rich blue cheese works amazingly well in shortbread, and they're perfect with chutneys, dips or just nibbled on their own in a hungry moment.

Black pepper adds a subtle warmth which I love, but you could also try these with chilli, cayenne pepper or sautéed garlic.
125g plain flour
2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
25g unsalted butter
75g gorgonzola
1 egg yolk
50ml cold water
sesame seeds

Preheat your oven to 180C and line two baking trays with parchment. In a large bowl, combine the flour, pepper and salt. Cube up the butter and add to the flour, then rub into the flour using your fingers until the mixture is sandy and resembles breadcrumbs. 

Next, add the gorgonzola and the egg yolk, and mix using your fingers. Add the water, a tablespoon at a time, until the mixture forms a soft dough - you may need to use more or less water than specified, depending on the coarseness of your flour. Once you have a soft dough which is evenly mixed, turn it only a lightly floured work surface. Shape the dough into a cylinder - it needs to be about 4 centimetres in diameter - then wrap in cling film and place in the freezer for 15-30 minutes.

Pour the sesame seeds onto a plate which is wider than your dough. Remove the dough from the freezer, and brush lightly with a little beaten egg, milk or water. Roll in the sesame seeds, until the whole thing is well coated. Use a sharp, heavy knife to carefully slice the dough into round biscuit discs - they should be just under a cm in thickness.

Arrange on the lined trays, brush with a little egg, milk or water, and then place in your pre-heated oven to bake for 15-25 minutes, until golden and crisp underneath. Remove from the tray and leave to cool on a wire rack. 

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