When it comes to coveting anything and everything anise-flavored, I am Italian through and through. I just love the bright licorice-flavored aroma that seeps from baked goods that have anise in them. Anise pizzelles may be my favorite, but these anise cookies are a very close second. They are light and almost cake-like in texture, with anise infused not only in the cookie, but also in glaze for that extra kick. Just smelling these cookies reminds of my great aunt (Zia Lena), who traveled here from Italy with my grandfather and their two other brothers when they were in their teens. When I opened the container I was storing the cookies in days after making them, one whiff transported me back to her house in Kenosha, Wisconsin, where we often visited during the summer when we were kids. I could almost smell her kitchen.
These cookies are very easy to make and are great for any cookie table, especially around the holidays, and go especially well with your afternoon cup of tea (or coffee). Note that the amount of baking powder called for is not an error – this is what gives the cookies a light lift and a cake-like texture. Between the anise in the cookie and the anise in the glaze, there is definitely not a lack of anise flavor here, but if you want a stronger flavor, substitute 1 teaspoon of anise oil (often found at pharmacy counters) for the tablespoon of anise extract in the cookie.
Are there any food smells that remind you of a specific person or place?
For the cookies:
3½ cups all-purpose flour
7 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
¼ cup vegetable shortening
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon anise extract
2/3 cup half-and-half
For the glaze:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
2½ cups powdered sugar
¼ cup milk
1½ teaspoons anise extract
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.
3. Cream the butter, shortening and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping the bowl as needed, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Mix in the anise extract.
4. On low speed or with a wooden spoon, mix in the flour and half-and-half alternately, beginning and ending with the flour.
5. Using 1-2 tablespoons of dough, roll into balls (or use a medium-sized cookie scoop) and place on the prepared baking sheets about 2 inches apart. Flatten slightly with your fingers. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until just lightly browned. Remove to cooling racks to cool completely before glazing.
6. For the glaze, whisk together the melted butter, powdered sugar, milk and anise extract until smooth. Dip the top of each cookie into the glaze, letting the excess drip off, and set right-side-up on the cooling rack. The glaze will harden once it dries. Store in an air-tight container at room temperature.
* Note 1: The amount of baking powder is not an error - this is what creates the cake-like texture of the cookies.
* Note 2: For an even more potent anise flavor, substitute 1 teaspoon of anise oil for the 1 tablespoon of anise extract in the cookies.