Friday, March 11, 2011

Anise All Over

I purchased fresh anise seeds from World Spice, so in one weekend I made two different kinds of anise cookies.

This first recipe I adapted from a cornmeal cookie using apricots and sage. I like the fruit/herb concept for a sophisticated cookie, but wanted to make the recipe my own while using up some ingredients I already had on hand. The idea to pair dates and anise came from this cookie recipe which I highly recommend, but which is a much different type of cookie than the drop cookie I was in the mood for.

The cornmeal gives these cookies a light, crispy crunch that is rather addictive. The dates add sweetness and a chewy tang, and the anise, while it seems like a lot, adds just the right amount of subtle herbality. I had some packaged chopped dates that were getting on the dry side, so I used that as an excuse to soak them in brandy (you can also use hot water) before mixing into the dough. If you have plumb, fresh dates, you don't need to soak them.

These will spread quite a bit on the cookie sheet, so don't make the balls much large than 1" diameter.  I bake up a sheet or two, and then freeze the rest of the dough for another time. If you want to make it really easy for later, drop teaspoonfuls of dough onto a cookie sheet and freeze the whole sheet for 15-20 minutes, then place the balls in a plastic bag and freeze. That way, it's super-easy to pull out however many cookies you want later and bake just that amount.

Cornmeal Cookies with Dates and Anise
makes ~60 cookies

1 cup chopped dates
2 T brandy plus enough hot water to cover

1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 3/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
2 1/2 teaspoons ground fresh anise seed

Preheat oven to 350. Soak dates in hot brandy & water until soft.
Using a stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix butter and sugar until creamy. Add eggs and mix until incorporated. Mix together flour and soda and stir into butter mixture. Stir together cornmeal, salt, and anise, then mix in to butter mixture. Stir in dates.
Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes until edges are golden and centers are set. Remove to rack to cool.

Above are my take on the Anise and Sesame Cookies from Gourmet. To save time and headache, I chilled the dough in a log rather than a disc, and then simply sliced the log thinly to make rounds. They had a lovely, buttery crispness, but in a first trial batch, I didn't feel the sesame really added much.  So for the remainder, and as shown in the photo, I sprinkled  them with finishing sugar and a bit of kosher salt. I think I would also prefer grinding the anise seeds and mixing the powder into the batter for a more consistent texture.

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