Gentle hints of aniseed in both the shortbread and apple granita show off fennel at its grown-up best
Apple & fennel granita with fennel shortbread
Fennel is just as comfortable in sweet settings as it is in savoury, and its aniseed flavour adds a sophisticated note to this grown-up dessert.
Makes 12 servings/biscuits
700ml cloudy apple juice
Juice of lemon
100g granulated sugar
1 head (or 2 tbsp) fennel seeds for the shortbread
150g soft salted butter
70g golden caster sugar, plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling
150g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
70g rice flour
2 tbsp fennel seeds
Cook’s note: The granita is easy to make, but you should ideally make the liquid and leave it to cool the day before you’re going to turn it into granita. Freeze early on a day when you’ll be in the kitchen a lot, as it needs a little attention periodically.
1 Pour the juices and sugar into a saucepan and gently heat until the sugar is dissolved. Add the fennel seeds and bring to the boil, then simmer for a few mins. Remove from the heat and leave to cool completely.
2 Sieve into a plastic container with a lid and transfer to the freezer. Set a timer for two hours, then remove from the freezer and use a fork to break up the frozen edges and stir them into the centre.
3 Set a timer to repeat hourly, breaking up the ice crystals each time, shortening the timer to every half hour once it really starts to freeze. The more times you do this, the more snowy it will become, but even a few stirs will create a good result.
4 To make the shortbread, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy, then add the flours, fennel seeds, and a pinch of salt. Mix together roughly, then use your hands to bring the mixture into a dough.
5 Roll out onto a floured surface, cut into rounds, and place onto a baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Prick all over with a fork, then chill in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
6 Preheat oven to 180C/Fan 160C/350F. Take the shortbread out of the fridge and sprinkle over 2 tbsp caster sugar. Bake for 20–25 mins until the colour of pale straw, then remove from the oven and leave to cool, transferring to a rack when they have hardened a little. Serve a small bowl of granita with a shortbread biscuit.