The Italian Anisette Cookie. The familiar “S” shaped cookie with the white icing and colored sprinkles. It just wouldn’t be an Italian Cookie Tray without it! Many may not like the distinct licorice taste from the oil of anise so at times I’ve left it out to please those who were not familiar with it or in finding the crushed herb seeds in their cookies!
But for those of us raised on these cookies, their unique taste, shape and presence at Christmas is a comforting treat of family traditions and memories. These were the cookies I watched my mother shape and bake year after year. And these were the cookies I had to promise not to overload with sprinkles!! Both the shape of the ‘S’ and figure ‘8” were common. Lemon or almond can be substituted for the anise extract. Their lightly sweet taste is again as most Italian cookies, perfect for dipping in espresso…or wine!
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
6 large eggs, room temp
1/2 cup milk, room temp
5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
6 generous teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons anise extract
Preheat oven to 400. In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, set aside. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well. Mix in the anise. Add in the milk and flour, alternating portions of each until all combined. Turn dough onto a floured board and knead until dough is firm and not sticky, adding more flour if necessary.
Break off a handful of dough at a time and roll into long pencil, cut into 3 inch pieces. Shape into ‘S’ shape on ungreased cookie sheet. These cookies will puff up. Bake approximately 8-10 minutes. Remove to cool on rack, then frost. Makes about 5-7 dozen depending on size of cookie.
Fosting: In a large bowl, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add in 1/2 pound of confectioners’ sugar. Stir in milk, about 4-5 tablespoons, stirring to incorporate well, to a desired consistency for frosting the cookies. Brush on cookies, apply sprinkles and return to rack to set.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.
Wow, they are great shapes and sorry, i am one of those who does not like the flavour but big smile i can use the lemon instead! thank you darling, have a great day..hope you get time to sit down and have a cup of tea with one of these beauties! c
Thank you…I’m glad I gave you another option than anise!!
Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide
Oh I love it, love it, love it! Anise rocks.
I thought YOU would!!
Hey, Linda. You mentioned crushed herb seeds, but you didn’t include them in the recipe here. Are you using crushed anise or fennel or something else?
I did not put the crushed anise in these cookies but have at other times. My mother’s note was for 1-2 tablespoons of anise seed. Not too many people like that, so I did leave it out. I do like anise, do you?
I like anise and I would put crushed anise in them if I made these cookies. i am too lazy to make cookies that require frosting, other than pfefferneusse.
I am not a big fan of anise but I don’t mind eating them if the flavor is on the mild side. This recipe reminds me of my Zia Rita in Italy! haven’t been baking much this season, my kids keep reminding me of that too. Wish you had a bakery that I could shop at, I’d buy all the cookies you posted! lol
Aw, I’d love to give you and your family a cookie tray!! I think you’ll need at least a few cookies to leave out for Santa!
It’s been ages since I’ve seen these, Linda, and yours here are exactly as I remember them. I can almost smell the anise! Although we were welcome to them, anise-flavored cookies were usually enjoyed by the adults with their coffee after meals but we were hardly deprived. We kids had plenty of others to choose from. (Love the plate, by the way!)
My mom would also bake some without the anise as she wanted the kids to enjoy the cookies as well. Anise was not a favorite of mine either as a child. I love it now of course!!
Another great cookie recipe! Thanks for sharing and for the record, I LOVE anise. Both the extract and the seeds. I use them both in my German Christmas Springerle cookies.
Just A Smidgen
These are so pretty and I love anise.. what is the significance of the “s” shape?
Great question! I really don’t know the history behind the shape! I did a quick google search too but didn’t find anything. I’ve always taken it for what it was and never thought of it! Now, I’m going to continue to ask around to see if there was anything specific to the shape!
Sunday is my day for doing some Christmas baking and I´m going to have to add these to the list! We love anise, so I´ll def include it. Adore that plate – Christmas colours and the Italian flag in one 🙂
Love the anise flavor…. not too sweet. I don’t bake much, but will add this to my short list of Christmas cookie recipes!
Ah, thank goodness you gave another option for anise. I just can’t handle it. A little bit of the seed flavouring in bread is wonderful, but if it’s the primary flavour it makes me sad 🙁 Now, with almond, or especially lemon? Now that’s something I could go for! They look so cute too 😀
By the way, did you solve your hosting problems in the end?
Thanks for all your advice and help with the hosting…I’m going to make it my January goal to get it done. This month has just been too busy!! You are certainly well knowledged in this and I can’t tell you enough how grateful I am to get some direction!
Kelly @ Inspired Edibles
I always appreciate being introduced to different styles and traditions – love the distinctive S shape and how it’s linked in to memories of your mom… nothing like that. Anise is splendid in my books. Such a pretty plate Linda.
Anisette cookies are easily one of my favorite holiday cookies! 🙂 Great recipe Linda. I hope you had a good weekend.
Must say that I am on the side of not enjoying the flavour of anise but love the idea of lemon instead. These are so pretty!
love love these cookies. always have and your recipe with the lemon sounds amazing
Absolutely lushous looking! I love Anasette! I will have to make these.
These are too cute! I’m not a fan of black licorice so I’d probably exclude the anise, but love the idea of substituting lemon or almond instead! Now that is something I would very much enjoy. 😉
Geni - Sweet and Crumby
So glad to have one of your traditional cookie recipes! I love the anise flavor and will promise not to overload mine with sprinkles!
I go back and forth on my feeling about licorice, but Liz’s excitement about seeing these cookies might just make me try them. 😉
Lovely cookies and so traditional in an Italian home. I’m one of the anise lovers but know how it might be too strong of a flavor with the seeds included. I have always enjoyed these cookies because they are not too sweet and have a lovely aroma.
My late Grandmother used to make these. You’ve restored some pretty special memories, young lady. Thank you.
Food, Flowers, Herbs and Life!
Ritchey always talks of the anise cookies his step-mom made in Switzerland! I will make these and surprise him! I know he’ll love these!
Just whipped up batches of these cookies and sent a huge tray to my neighbors’ house. As a non-italian (and not an anise fan), I wasn’t sure if they would come out right. My neighbor got tears in his eyes as he bit into one and said they were “just like the ones my Aunt Anna used to make.” His wife asked where I found the recipe! A traditional cookie that tasted good and bought up memories of Christmas past – they both said to tell you “Grazie”! (I made lemon ones for my house, and they are delicious)!
Thank you Donna! I am so glad to hear that these cookies turned out good for you and that it brought back wonderful memories for your neighbors. I am so pleased that you took the time to leave me a comment!
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season!!
This is the closest I’ve ever found to my momma’s receipt. Only ours was lemon. Even the icing was just powdered sugar and lemon juice. Also we made them into crescent moon shapes. Merry Christmas to you and your family.
I remember as well that my mom would swap the anise for lemon in some batches as the children preferred the lemon flavor to anise. I always love to hear from people familiar with these family recipes that bring back so many memories. Merry Christmas to you and your family!