sea salt and native pepperberry cacao shortbread

sea salt and native pepperberry cacao shortbread

or salt & pepper cocoa shortbread – either way, dee-lish!


I have a lovely and very popular sea salt blend: with tasmanian native pepperberry and was flicking through my large collection of cookbooks looking for inspiration. I normally use it as a finishing salt but I wanted some new ways to use it. I wanted to make something special to really maximise the lovely salty/a bit sweet/a bit floral/very spicy nature of this salt blend.

I’ve had a copy of this book Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dori Greenspan for ages and was super excited when when I found her recipe for salt and pepper cocoa shortbread.

Salted sweets have been HUGE lately, and  so have spicy sweets. But sweet, salty AND spicy! Awesome!

These shortbreads are really not too sweet, but also not quite savory. When you bite into one you immediately get a little hint of sweetness from the sugar, a slightly bitter, almost smokey flavour of cacao which then turns into a slow spicy/peppery burn from the pepperberry and finishes with a sharp bite from the sea salt.

These probably aren’t the cookies you want to give to the kids for an after school treat. But if you’re looking for something a little different and unexpected, these are worth making.

sea salt and pepperberry cacao shortbread

Now, don’t be put off if you don’t yet have the pepperberry sea salt blend. Simply substitute sea salt flakes and coarsely ground black pepper. And the raw cacao I used can be replaced with unsweetened cocoa powder.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Resting Time4 hrs
Total Time4 hrs 35 mins
Course: Snack, sweet treat
Servings: 30 cookies (approx)
Author: Robyn Mayne


the shortbread

  • 1 1/2 cups plain flour or gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup raw cacao powder or unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 cup butter softened
  • 2/3 cup icing sugar
  • 1 egg yolk large
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract or better still fresh vanilla from the pod
  • 1 tsp sea salt with native pepperberry or 1/2 tsp sea salt & 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

the roll mix

  • 1 or 2 tsp sea salt with native pepperberry or salt and pepper in the ratio you refer
  • 1 Tbsp coarse sugar I used raw sugar
  • egg wash beaten egg with either milk or water


  • Sift together the flour and cacao/cocoa powder
  • In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium-low until smooth (or mix by hand with a wooden spoon if you have the time and energy). Add the sugar and continue to beat until butter is smooth. Add the egg yolk, salt and pepperberry mix and vanilla and mix until smooth
  • Add the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, beating on low speed only until each lot is fully incorporated
  • Turn out the dough on a floured work surface. Divide the dough in half and roll into two 2.5-3 cm thick logs (about 15 cm long). Roll the logs back and forth under your palms to get a good shape. Once formed, wrap the logs in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least four hours. TIP: Placing your plastic wrapped shortbread dough rolls inside a paper towel roll (or similar) will help them to keep shape and not flatten on one side while they rest in the fridge
    tasmanian sea salt and native pepperberry
  • To bake, preheat your oven to 175C (350F)
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment/baking paper
  • Remove the dough rolls from the fridge, brush each roll with egg wash and sprinkle with the pepperberry salt blend (or salt and black pepper) and sugar mixture
  • Use a sharp knife to cut logs into rounds and place them on the baking sheet, leaving approx 3 cm between them – they will spread a little
  • Bake for 14-16 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the 7-minute mark
  • Remove from oven and let sit on the tray for a few minutes – they will firm up enough to lift without breaking in this time. Transfer to wire cooling rack to cool to room temperature


Make it gluten free: use your prefered gluten free flour (either a home-made mix or pre-packaged). Depending on your choice of flour mix (there are many different blends) you may not be able to do a straight 1:1 replacement as your shortbread will be too crumbly. You may need to add xanthan gum to help bind the dough and tapioca starch or rice flour to help make the shortbread crisp.
Make it sugar free: Use stevia and a bulking agent of your choice. See here for stevia information. Be aware that your substitution may change the texture of your shortbread so substitute with care. Also take into consideration that the sugar crystals around the outside of the cookies will caramelise slightly and add a crunchy deliciousness that you’d miss with stevia.
Make it egg free: Just leave it out of the shortbread mixture! Traditional shortbread doesn’t contain eggs so you won’t miss it. And try water or milk to bind the sugar/salt/pepper mix to the outside.
Make it dairy free: Now, a disclaimer: I haven’t tried this… I have seen recipes online for a direct swap of the butter for the same amount of coconut oil. If you try this, I’d love to hear how it goes. Let me know below.

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