But what do you make with anise seeds?
Springerle, of course!
Springerle are one of the traditional cookies that my grandmother made every year. These are floury, no-fat cookies flavored with anise seeds and adorned with decorative pictures from a special carved roller or wooden mold. Grandma always kept the cookies in a gallon-sized glass jar. Hers were generally hard enough that they required dunking in coffee to make them edible, though I always liked gnawing on them without dunking them. I guess I'm just weird that way. My springerle are a considerably softer, which I suppose has to do with how long they dry before baking. This year's batch is slightly tan because (oopsie) as I was mixing them I discovered I was one cup shy of the amount of unbleached flour that I needed, so I added a cup of whole wheat flour.
It takes two days to make the cookies. The dough is mixed and the cookies are shaped in the first evening, then baked the next day after they dry overnight. For best flavor, make the springerle a week or two before Christmas to allow the flavor of the anise seeds to permeate the cookies. Store them in a tightly-closed container while they season so they don't turn rock-hard.
This recipe will make 5-6 dozen small cookies.
2 cups of sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 1/2 cups of flour
Beat the eggs until they are thick. Slowly add the sugar and salt and continue beating 5 minutes with an electric mixer or 15 minutes by hand. Stir in the flour about 1/2 cup at a time. The dough will be stiff.
Divide the dough in half. Shape in to a slab slightly more than 1/4 inch thick and the width of your springerle roller or wooden mold. Roll the dough with the springerle roller to press the pictures into the cookies. Cut the cookies apart. If you don't have a springerle roller, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick and cut into bars 1 inch wide and 1 1/2 inches long.
Lightly grease two cookie sheets and sprinkle thickly with anise seeds. Place the cookies on top of the seeds. They can be fairly close together because they will not spread during baking. Cover the cookies with a cloth and let them dry overnight.
The next morning, heat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the cookies in the oven and immediately reduce the temperature to 325 degrees. The initial heat sets the design. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the sheet and allow to cool, then store in a tightly closed container. Seeds that were left on the sheet after the cookies were removed can go in the bottom of the jar to add to the anise aroma.
Essential tools: Grandma's springerle roller and her favorite cookie cookbook, dated 1941.