Old Fashioned Self-Glazing Anise Cookie Recipe
When I was little, I mean really little, we used to occasionally visit my Aunt Jewel. She was my mother’s aunt, and quite old in the early 1970’s. Every year, the thing I was most excited about was the fact that Aunt Jewel always made these Uh.Ma.Zing anise cookies for Christmas. I remember her explaining to me once that these cookies were so special that they glazed themselves as they baked.
These weren’t just any anise cookie. They were small and extremely light. They were flavorful but not too sweet. They were surprisingly sophisticated for a child to love, in fact. I’d say they were very European tasting.
Aunt Jewel died when I was quite young, and I gave up on the idea of ever having my favorite cookie in the world ever again. I mean, where the heck do you find a recipe for a self-glazing cookie?
Um… how about The Joy of Cooking?
Yep, I found her recipe in my old and tattered copy of the Joy of Cooking about 15 years ago, and promptly set out to make them.
But they didn’t glaze themselves.
I figured it must have been because I used anise extract instead of anise seeds. So I tried again.
And they didn’t glaze themselves again.
So, I did what any really dedicated and talented baker would do:
I gave up for about 10 years.
But a couple of years ago, with a lot more baking experience under my belt, I decided to give this recipe one last try. And I did something I hadn’t done before:
I followed the recipe down to the letter. And guess what?
They glazed themselves!!!
Funny how that works.
Anyway, this recipe is not hard – not at all. But it’s not a “normal” recipe.
- The batter is THICK. Almost too thick to use a regular mixer without burning out your motor. You may doubt the ingredient amounts and change them. Don’t.
- You have to let them sit out in the open air to dry for 18 hours before you bake them – seems counter-intuitive because there are eggs in them (don’t worry, once they bake they are fine!). I left mine out for 24 hours and they were awesome – but I probably wouldn’t leave them out much longer than that.
- They taste best when they are super-small (1/2 tsp of batter per cookie!!). I don’t really understand why, but when you make them too big, they get cakey and the flavor changes slightly.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY: You have to watch the weather forecast before you make them. Why? Because unless you live in the desert, you need to make sure that the humidity is less than 50% for a full 18-24 hours. For us in Chicago, that means we can pretty much only make these cookies when it is below freezing for a full day and full night. You’d think this wouldn’t be that hard, but honestly, this last weekend was the first time I could make them in the last 2 years. It’s probably been cold enough in the middle of the week, but I really only bake like this on the weekends. So once I saw the weather forecast was super-cold last Friday, I knew I’d be baking these this weekend.
Old Fashioned Self-Glazing Anise Cookie Recipe from The Joy of Cooking
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 Tbsp crushed anise seeds*
I mentioned that I tried making these with anise extract instead of anise seeds and it didn’t work. I think my problem might have been the humidity or drying time, and not the anise extract. But I’ve been too afraid to try it again. I’d love to know if it does work, if you have tried it!
- Beat the 3 eggs in a mixing bowl until light, about 1 minute
- Add the one cup of sugar gradually, beating well between additions
- Beat for a minimum of 3-5 minutes, longer if by hand
- Add the vanilla and combine thoroughly
- Crush the anise seeds by putting them into a plastic bag and hitting them with a hammer or flat side of a meat tenderizer mallet
- Mix the flour, anise seeds and baking powder together in a separate bowl
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and mix for another 5 minutes
It will be hard to handle with the mixer and may climb up your beaters. That’s ok.
This next part is super-important, too:
Line your cookie sheets with foil. Or you will never get them off.
Then drop the batter by 1/2 teaspoons onto the cookie sheets. Try to keep them small, they cook better and are crunchier when they are done. They will seem to look completely malformed and you will again wonder if you made them right. But you can see in the following photo that after a few minutes, the batter will spread slightly and flatten out all on its own:
You can put them very close together. Once they spread out while wet, they will not spread any more, even while baking.
Now you have to let them dry. Don’t skimp on the 18 hours. Like I said earlier, I left them out for 24 hours. The dry time is critical to the self-glazing process. Because as these cookies bake, the top needs to stay put as the rest of the cookie rises underneath it. And again like I said earlier – humidity MUST be below 50% for the entire drying time.
The next day, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Bake them for about 12 minutes, until the bottoms just barely start to brown. Just pop them in the oven just as you left them on the cookie sheets yesterday. Once done, they won’t peel off of the foil until they are cooled for at least a few minutes. There will always be a little cookie residue, but if parts of the cookie are still sticking to the foil, wait a bit longer.
Now, enjoy them. And you may find your son will sneak off with about half of them before you can even notice. Oh, wait. That was MY son.
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1½ Tbsp crushed anise seeds
- Beat the 3 eggs in a mixing bowl until light, about 1 minute. Add the one cup of sugar gradually, beating well between additions. Beat for a minimum of 3-5 minutes, longer if by hand.
- Add the vanilla and combine thoroughly.
- Crush the anise seeds by putting them into a plastic bag and hitting them with a hammer or flat side of a meat tenderizer mallet.
- Mix the flour, anise seeds and baking powder together in a separate bowl.
- Gradually add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and mix for another 5 minutes. It will be hard to handle with the mixer and may climb up your beaters. That’s ok.
- Line your cookie sheets with foil.
- Then drop the batter by ½ teaspoons onto the cookie sheets. Try to keep them small, they cook better and are crunchier when they are done.
- Let them dry for 18-24 hours.
- The next day, pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees. Bake them for about 12 minutes, until the bottoms just barely start to brown.
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