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Native Pepperberry and Sea Salt 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 unique and delicious flavour 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 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. If you haven’t tried native pepperberry yet, it’s time you did 

These probably aren’t the biscuits 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.

It’s all about the native pepperberry for me!

Pepperberry (Tasmanian lanceolata) – also known as native pepperberry, native pepper, mountain pepper – is a native alternative to traditional black pepper. The berries have a hot and sweet peppery taste that lingers on the taste buds. They have a totally unique, spicy and “bitey” flavour that cannot be replicated by any other spice. Think: a bit sweet/a bit floral/very spicy!

Sea Salt and Native 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.
Course Snack, Sweet Treat
Keyword finishing salt, native pepperberry, recipe, shortbread, sweet treats
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting Time 4 hours
Total Time 4 hours 35 minutes
Servings 30 shortbread (approx)


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 3/4 tsp sea salt & 1/4 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 use 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 pepperberry 40g jar
  • 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 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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