Aniseed Cookies

Aniseed Cookies1

Am I the only one that will buy a particular, somewhat rare, yet hardly-ever-usable spice for ONE recipe…then just let it sit in the cabinet indefinitely because I literally don’t know what else to do with it?

I HATE THAT.

But I’m still guilty of it.

Aniseed Cookies2

I bought saffron once. It’s main use was to make St. Lucia Buns, but I told myself I’d use it to make paella later. Did I make the paella? No. But the St. Lucia Buns turned out fantastic, and I have made them again since that first time.

The first time I brined a turkey, I bought a small bottle of whole juniper berries that were supposed to go in the brine. Prior to that, I wasn’t even sure of what a juniper berry was supposed to even taste like. The turkey turned out fine, but I still haven’t touched them since then, which was…November of 2014.

I buy vials of whole star anise to make my favorite Cranberry Clementine sauce. Do I know anything else to do with whole star anise? Heck no. But it gives an irreplaceable flavor to the cranberry sauce, so I buy it anyway.

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When I looked over the recipe to make my Springerle cookies, I saw that I would need something called Baker’s Ammonia. Had I EVER used Baker’s Ammonia before? Nope. But for the sake of my cookies, I bought some. I used 1 tsp for the entire batch. I still have just about the entire 2.7 ounce bottle left….and no idea what else to do with it.

I bought orange blossom water to make my very first batch of Baklawa. I put 2 tbsp worth in the syrup. The problem is that it was from a 10 ounce bottle….and sadly, I still have not touched it since then.

Whole cloves. Whole peppercorns. White pepper. Whole cinnamon sticks. Pomegranate molasses. Sumac. Fennel seeds.

Those are just a few of the spices I currently have in my cabinets that I purchased for maybe 1 or 2 recipes, and have yet to find other uses for.

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Another one I should add to that list would be whole aniseeds.

Why would I buy whole aniseeds?

I bought them for last year’s 12 Days of Christmas series where I made Biscochito cookies…and to my shame, I have not found another use for them since then.

Or should I say, since now– today’s recipe for Day 7 of our series.

Anise is a flavor that people typically either love or hate. If I had to describe it, I would say that it’s mildly reminiscent of licorice. But even if you THINK you don’t really like the flavor of anise, I still think you should give this recipe a chance. These cookies are that good.

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Also, if you’re like me and you have a 2 oz. bottle of aniseed sitting in your cabinet, then allow me to give you just the recipe to put those suckers to good use. It’s well worth the two whopping tablespoons that goes in this dough. I already knew when I rolled it out that I would love these cookies; the dough just ‘felt’ good to me. It’s very smooth and pliable without being too sticky.

The cookie isn’t chewy, but it does have a buttery, melt-in-your-mouth texture that I just loved. The citrus zest that you choose to include (whether it’s lemon or orange) also gives a very pleasant balance to the flavor of the aniseed. These really remind me of the type of cookies you would serve at a tea party alongside some tea, coffee or hot chocolate.

Or, of course: alongside some milk for Santa.

12 Days of Christmas Banner Second

Day 1: Springerle Cookies

Day 2: Speculaas Cookies

Day 3: Gingerbread Caramel Crunch

Day 4: Cranberry Pumpkin Gingerbread

Day 5: Sticky Caramel Pecan Babka

Day 6: Speculoos Truffle Cookies

Day 7: Aniseed Cookies

Aniseed Cookies


Recipe Courtesy of Anne Burrell

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Ingredients

  • 3 sticks (12 oz.) unsalted butter, at room temp.
  • 1 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar,plus more for rolling
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest (I did use orange, but that’s just my preference)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp. aniseed, toasted
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • About 6tbsp. raw sugar

Directions

In a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the first two ingredients on medium high, occasionally scraping down side of bowl until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the egg and next four ingredients; beat until smooth. Add the aniseed and half the flour, beat on medium low until just blended. Repeat with the remaining flour.

Turn the dough onto a work surface dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Knead until it just comes together, two or three turns. Shape into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm (I let it sit overnight in the fridge).

Preheat oven to 35o degrees Fahrenheit. Let the dough soften until slightly at room temperature, about 10 minutes. Place onto a work surface dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Dust dough with more sugar; roll to 1/4 inch thick. Using 2 1/2 inch cookies cutters, cut out shapes. Gather up the scraps; roll again, refrigerating if dough is too soft. Arrange on parchment lined baking sheets, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. Refrigerate cookies on baking sheets for about 30 minutes.

Sprinkle each cookie with about 1/2 tsp raw sugar. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden around the edges, 10 to 13 minutes. Transfer on the parchment to racks and let cool.

Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

Pan de Muerto1

Last night was (as we all know) Halloween. However, it was also the start of the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead. It was something that I hadn’t even heard of until I was in middle school, and a traveling performing arts troupe did a short dramatization for us. To this day, I still remember being intrigued by it, and that started what continues to be a mild fascination with the Day of the Dead.

For those that haven’t heard of it, don’t freak out. It’s not a morbid, gothic thing exactly. In fact, after studying the history behind the holiday itself, you find out that it’s actually a very meaningful part of ancient Hispanic culture.

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So let’s take it back. Way back. Back into time. When the Spaniards conquered the Aztecs around 1521, they tried to force Catholicism upon them in an attempt to try and eradicate their ancient religious rituals. In Catholicism, there are holidays called All Saints Day and All Souls Day that takes place November 1st and 2nd of every year. Although a large part of the Aztec culture was suppressed by the Spaniards, they still managed to preserve bits and pieces of their culture even in the midst of their oppression and cultural suppression. The Day of the Dead was one of those results.

Celebrated from October 31st to November 2nd, it’s a shortened version of the Aztec Mictecacihuatl festival that gives honor and memoriam to loved ones who have passed away. One of the most common practices for the Day of the Dead is to build beautiful altars with flowers, candles, pictures of dead loved ones, as well as various Mexican foods. One of the most important of these foods is the Pan de Muerto- or in English, the Bread of the Dead.

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I’ve been waiting for months now to make this bread, not just because I thought the ingredients sounded great, but also because I think it’s just really cool to look at. The bread’s shape is representative of the Day of the Dead itself, with the dough being shaped into bones that are topped with a skull.

I’ll be honest, this reminds me a lot of the Jewish egg-based Challah bread, with the very notable exception of the anise in the Pan de Muerto that gives it a slight licorice aftertaste, as well as the delicious cinnamon sugar that gets sprinkled on the top just before it goes into the oven. It’s very tender and soft on the inside, and would also be perfect for later use in bred puddings or french toast.

Plus like I said: isn’t it just SO cool to look at?

Oh yeah, and those people in the picture? My great-grandparents, Isaac and Lily-Mae Haynes. They’ve passed away, so in a way I guess this bread is for them. Happy Día de los Muertos!

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Pan de Muerto- Day of the Dead Bread

Recipe Courtesy of “Bake” by Edward Gee

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 4 tablespoons butter, diced, plus extra for greasing
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 1/3 cups all purpose flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground star anise
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Put the yeast into a large bowl with the water, stir to dissolve, and let stand for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, put the milk into a saucepan set over medium heat, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat and add butter, 1/4 cup of the sugar and the salt. Stir until dissolved. Add the milk mixture to the yeast mixture.

2. Add one egg and the flour to the liquid ingredients, mix to combine, then knead until a smooth, silky dough forms. Transfer the dough to a clean bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 2 hours.

3. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into four pieces. Set one piece aside. Using the palms of your hands, shape each of the remaining pieces into three ropes of equal length.

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly grease the paper. Weave the three dough ropes into a braid and join the ends to make a round loaf. Take the reserved piece of dough and shape it into 2 bones and a skull. Arrange these on top of the loaf and press lightly. Put on the prepared baking sheet and let rise for 45 minutes, to an hour.

5. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350° F. Mix together the anise, cinnamon, and the remaining sugar in a small bowl. Beat the remaining egg and brush it onto the braided dough (do not brush the skull and bones), then sprinkle with the anise mixture.

6. Bake the bottom of the preheated oven for 20-25 minutes, until golden. If it’s browning too quickly, cover with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Remove from the oven and put on a wire rack to cool.