27 September, 2017
When I was a little girl, we used to have big family Christmases with lots of people, tons of food, and enough cookies to feed all of Santa’s elves. While there are a few baked goods we continued to make after the Christmas get-togethers stopped, but these weren’t one of them, for some reason.
When I started making these in my own kitchen, 20 years after the last time I’d had them, it was a lot of trial and error, since I didn’t have a family recipe to work from. I found a basic anisette recipe somewhere else, but by the time I was done with it, you’d never recognize it. I tinkered with the dough by tasting lots of batter. Eventually, I got it right, and boy, did the nostalgia come flooding to me.
When I put the cookies in the oven and they started baking, I almost cried. I hadn’t smelled these cookies baking in so long. The fragrance of the anise and the sweet dough brought back so many memories from when I was little, baking in Nana’s kitchen. This Christmas, I’m going to have a party with friends, just like I used to with family. I’ll make the cookies we’ve carried on from my childhood, and finally, I’ll have these.
For the Cookies:
6 1/2 cups Flour
6 heaping tsp Baking powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1 1/2 sticks Butter (softened)
1 1/4 cup Sugar
6 Eggs (room temperature)
2 tsp Anise extract
1/2 cup Milk (room temperature)
1 tbsp Anise seeds
For the Icing:
1 cup + 1 tbsp Powdered sugar
3 tbsp Milk
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt, and set the bowl aside. In another large bowl, cream the butter and sugar. Add the eggs in one at a time, followed by the anise extract. Add in the milk and flour mix, alternating in thirds until everything has been mixed together. Fold in the anise seeds, and let dough sit for an hour, loosely covered.
Once the dough has been left to sit, spread flour over a section of clean counter top and your hands, and turn the dough out onto the counter. Knead the dough until it is no longer sticky, but firm and workable. You may need to add more flour to the dough, gradually, while kneading it to reach this texture.
Once the dough is no longer sticking to your hands, grab a chunk of dough about the size of a ping pong ball, and roll it our into a 1/4 inch thick “snake” of dough that’s about 6″ long . Twist the length of dough over itself twice into to form a loop (see the picture below for an example).
Bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes or until golden on the bottom. I suggest putting one pan in the oven at a time and filling up the remaining one while the one tray of cookies bakes. This recipe yields about 8 dozen cookies, so it’ll be a while.
To make the icing, pour the powdered sugar into a bowl and add the milk. Whisk the two ingredients together until there are no more lumps. Move the cookies onto a dedicated icing dish, to keep things clean. Brush the icing generously onto the cookies and add sprinkles immediately (otherwise they won’t stick). Move the cookies to a rack or a separate plate from the icing plate (otherwise they’ll get stuck) and let the icing set completely before moving the cookies to an airtight container for storage.