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Adding Cheese To Cookies: Fennel & Olive Cookies

Some might doubt the need to fuss with the cookie formula—after all, butter plus sugar plus flour plus your favorite fruit, nut, or candy does equal peak treat. But here at culture, cheese graces 99 percent of our recipes, adding richness, tang, and dimension. Why should cookies be any different? To that end—and in time for your holiday cheese plates, dessert trays, and gift boxes—we’ve put together this collection of sweet and savory treats, featuring confections with cheese in the dough, in the filling, and in the icing. Still skeptical? We thought not.

Fennel and Olive Cookies

A little sugar in the dough brings out the fruitiness of both the cheese and the olives, and helps these treats walk the sweet-savory line. They’re lovely with before-dinner drinks.


  • 4 ounces Pecorino Romano roughly chopped
  • ¼ cup pitted oil-cured olives such as niçoise
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 8 tablespoons 1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into ½-inch chunks
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons ice water


  • Pulse pecorino in the bowl of a food processor until cheese is pebbly, then transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Add olives to food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Transfer to bowl with cheese.
  • Wipe out food processor, then add flour, sugar, and salt and pulse to combine. Add butter, a few chunks at a time, and pulse until flour mixture and butter start to come together. Add cheese, olives, and fennel seeds and pulse again.
  • Sprinkle dough with ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time, pulsing between additions, until dough starts to pull away from sides of bowl in a mass. Remove dough from food processor, gather into a ball, and divide in half. Shape each half into a disk, wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 3 days.
  • Arrange a rack in center of oven and heat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with silicone liners or parchment paper. Flour a work surface and remove dough from refrigerator. Working with 1 disk at a time, unwrap and roll out into a ¼-inch-thick round.
  • Use a 2-inch-wide round cookie cutter to stamp out dough (reroll scraps just once). Place rounds on prepared baking sheets and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until fragrant and golden brown. Let cookies cool on baking sheets for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a rack to cool completely before serving.

Photographed by Beryl Striewski

Leigh Belanger

Leigh Belanger is culture's former food editor. She's been a food writer, editor, and project manager for over a decade— serving as program director for Chefs Collaborative and contributing to local newspapers and magazines. Her first book, The Boston Homegrown Cookbook, was published in 2012. She lives and cooks in Boston with her family.

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