I suspect my mother’s fondness for black licorice was what set me on the path to loving zesty sweets. In addition to anything black licorice, I enjoy cinnamon, clove, peppermint, anise, and ginger candies and gums. I consider myself one of the lucky ones that these six fall within my range of favorite flavors. Some people would not consider this a plus, and I’ll bet I could tell you exactly on which flavors we would disagree.
I think it’s a genuine shame that there are people in the world who don’t like—nay, love—licorice and anise. In fact, I recently read a blog post where the woman ranted on and on about how evil licorice is. I actually felt sorry for the poor, misguided soul. The sad thing is, if one does not like licorice, there is a good chance its cousin, anise, will not be appreciated for the taste bud-stimulating wonder that it is.
Now before you wrinkle your nose and click another site, allow me to introduce a buttery cookie that is slightly reminiscent of shortbread only more tender with a sweet, deeply satisfying herbal presence. As my cousin recently said, one either loves or hates anise. As a fan of anise, the following cookie recipe was an obvious choice to appear in my novel, The Tedescos.
Grandma Josephine Tedesco makes a batch of these delicious, brightly decorated cookies as dessert following the dinner during which her youngest son, Danny, introduces his latest girlfriend to the family. I imagine anisette cookies were a staple in the Tedesco household as they are easy to make.
While no one is going to force you to try something you don’t like, I do believe you will do yourself an injustice if you don’t give Italian anisette cookies a chance. The festive little cookie makes a pretty presentation on the plate and is perfect for any occasion or to simply enjoy with a cup of coffee or tea.
Josephine Tedesco’s Italian Anisette Cookies
For the dough:
1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c sugar (I used raw)
3 large eggs
1/4 c milk (I used whole milk)
¼ t LorAnn’s anise oil**
½ t vanilla extract
3 ¼ c all-purpose flour
1 T baking powder
For the glaze:
2 c powdered sugar
3 – 4 drops of LoAnn’s anise oil
3 T water
To Prepare the Cookies:
Preheat your oven to 350° F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Cream the butter and sugar together in the bowl of a standing mixer for a few minutes until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat well until the mixture is frothy. Add the milk, anise oil, vanilla extract, and mix until combined.
In a separate bowl, sift the 3 cups of flour and the baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet in three increments, mixing until just combined. Place the dough on a sheet of plastic wrap long enough to cover all sides. Gently press the dough into a square about two inches thick.
Once the dough is shaped, cut the square into four equal pieces. Cut each slice in half lengthwise, and then cut those pieces in half lengthwise again. Cut each of the four strips of dough into six pieces and roll them into balls. The individual dough balls should be approximately one inch in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough. This should yield approximately 96 cookies.
Place the dough balls on the parchment-lined baking sheets and leave about 1 ½ inches between them on all sides. Bake the cookies for 10 minutes, or until they are very lightly browned on the bottom. Transfer them to a rack to cool completely.
For the glaze:
Once the cookies have cooled completely, whisk together 2 cups of powdered sugar, 3 – 4 drops of anise oil, and 3 tablespoons of water. The glaze should be thick but not dry. Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and return to the cooling racks. Sprinkle each cookie with nonpareils. Allow the glaze to harden before storing or stacking for presentation.
**I prefer LorAnn’s anise oil over anise extract because the oil really packs a punch of flavor in these cookies. If anise isn’t your thing, consider LorAnn’s lemon or orange oil.