Monday, December 14, 2015

Italian Anise Cookies

 A classic Christmas cookie for many families, this soft and puffy butter cookie uses anise for flavoring and is finished with a lemony, powdered sugar glaze and colorful nonpareils.

Italian Anise Cookies

These are a classic Christmas cookie all around the country, and yes, even in the Deep South for many! I love them, for one, because they are as easy to make as spritz cookies, but also because they are a slightly different take on the classic butter cookie.

One bite and you wonder, hmmm.... what is that?

Most folks can't quite put their finger on what though, because the flavoring is anise.

Anise is a bit of a unique flavor, kind of like a distant cousin to the licorice family, though it is more closely related to fennel and tarragon, and not licorice. It's used in other cultures in everything from savory to sweet dishes and even adult beverages.

The flavor is strong, but subtle because I'll tell you flat out, I'm not a fan of black licorice myself, but I enjoy anise. If you're not familiar with it and unsure how you'll feel about it as a flavor, feel free to substitute almond, vanilla or lemon flavor for this cookie, or even use a combination of anise with any one of them.

{Hissy fit warning} Folks, for all that is holy, please use pure extracts in your baking, especially for the holiday season. I see folks complaining about the taste of extracts being off, especially for almond, but it's often because they are using imitation extracts! We're talking pure ingredients versus chemical lab created ingredients, so when I am taking the time to make home-baked goodies to share with family and friends, I want to use the best, freshest and well... most pure ingredients. {tucking away soapbox}

Another reason I love these cookies is that I am not big on sweets and this isn't an overly sweet dough, though you could certainly increase the sugar just a tad more if you prefer a sweeter cookie.

These cookies will puff when they bake so be sure to roll the balls small. You could also make a drop cookie if you prefer. You should get about four dozen cookies from the batch, though how many you end up with will depend on how big you roll the balls. Recipe may also be successfully doubled if you want more.

Here's how to make them.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

Beat together the butter and sugar until well blended. Add the eggs, milk and extracts; blend on low. Blend in the flour mixture.

Use a damp paper towel to wipe your hands - this will help to roll the dough without making it too wet - and roll dough into smooth, small balls, placing onto an ungreased cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. I use a Wilton air bake cookie sheet.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned on the bottoms. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Whisk together powdered sugar, butter and lemon juice until blended. Add milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time until glaze is thick but a still pourable consistency. Correct as needed with additional powdered sugar or milk.

I use a squeeze bottle to make an easy job of drizzling the icing on, but you can also just dip the cookie tops into the glaze as well. Sprinkle the nonpareils on top of the wet glaze and set aside until fully dry. These can be flash frozen on a tray, then packed in freezer bags or stored in an air tight container at room temperature for a few days. Refrigerate for longer storage. Recipe doubles nicely.

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Posted by on December 14, 2015
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