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Amazing Anise

Anisette Cookies
I absolutely love everything about anise - especially the licorice smell and taste. Every time I leave our local Indian restaurant, I grab a dozen or so anise seeds along with a few sugary candies from the neighboring dish and eat them on my way home. Anise seeds after a meal help to aid in digestion, not to mention they taste lovely. I think I love doing that so much because the combination reminds me of one of my favorite French bon-bons, Les Anis de Flavigny
les Anis de Flavigny 
If you have never had the pleasure of tasting les Anis de Flavigny bon-bons, they are a hard, white candy surrounding a little anise seed. If you don't like in your face black licorice taste of candies like Good-n-Plenty, these offer a delicate, subtle licorice flavor. While the brand currently offers a wide variety of flavors, my go-to is the traditional anise, whose origins in Flavigny (Burgundy) date back to 1591! And if you're looking to purchase some in the US, Amazon does sell them (I buy the giant bags of them and just refill my two tins (one is pictured above)

The taste and smell of anise stir up feelings of nostalgia for both France and Germany. When I was in the Hesse region nearly two years ago visiting my daughter who was studying abroad in Marburg, we went to several Weinachtsmarkts (Christmas Markets). They were simply magical, and the smell of anise and almonds filled the air - and my heart.
My daughter looks around in wonder at the Kassel Weinachtsmarkt

The beautiful Weinachtsmarkt in Frankfurt
My girls and I have been reminiscing a lot about that trip recently, and it got me thinking about Christmas. I knew I wanted to recapture that heavenly smell by making anise cookies for Christmas this year, so I last week I purchased a small jar of powdered star anise from my favorite online spice store, Penzeys. I did not want to wait until December to find the perfect recipe, so naturally, I decided to experiment. And I REALLY lucked out because I found a superb recipe on my first try!

After pouring through dozens of online recipes, I decided to make the Italian anisette cookies. I followed this recipe from Italian Dessert Recipes, with a couple of minor changes. I did not have either anise extract or lemon extract. For the lemon extract substitute, I did as she suggested and used one Tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice. And for the anise extract, I substituted one tsp. of the powdered star anise. I also needed to add about 1/4 C. more flour than the recipe suggested because the dough was gooier than the recipe described.

The end result was magnificent. They were a huge hit with my family - even with my daughter who is not a big fan of anise.

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