Updated: May 27
There are certain tastes and smells that make a holiday come alive, and for me, my mother's anisette cookies are Christmas. When I was in university and my mother worked for Federal Express, one year as a surprise she overnighted me boxes of them to share with my friends. Since living abroad, it is rare I enjoy these cookies as I am not the baker my mother is. There is a local version of the anisette cookie, inspired by and Austrian recipe, and these are a drier, much harder version that do not have remotely the same attraction to me.
When Claudio and I married in early January of 2010, my mother drove from Florida to Mississippi with dozens of these in her car for me, and the only time I have been in the US for Christmas in the last decade she made sure to have them for me en masse. For me, these cookies are pure soul food, healthy for my soul self.
Eating 'healthy' is as much about ingredients as it is about the state of mind the food provokes, the state of mind in which I am in when I make and or eat the food, and the frequency and amount of the food I eat. If I were to eat these cookies every day all year round, I would likely be both overweight and in danger of having diabetes. However, the one week a year, sometimes only once in 2 or 3 years when I eat these cookies the wave of good feelings and joy that goes through my heart and soul makes them surely good for me.
Serendipitously, across the sea my mother wrote her side of this story without us discussing at all what we would share, and below you will see how in sync we are about our cookies, and likely our food values.
Mom’s story………and her anisette cookie recipe
Ah, the smell of cookies baking in the oven! I remember well-being at Nana and Poppa's house and Nana baking anisette cookies. My sister, aunt and I would wait patiently for the oven door to open and the hot cookies to come out. Nana would shoo us away until they were cool enough to ice. Powdered sugar, water and anisette flavoring with colored sprinkles on top. We seemed to eat them faster than she could ice them. She would leave them on the counter, uncovered so they would get hard a bit like hockey pucks! These, as Nana would say, were "dunking" cookies. She would make tea (with milk) and there we would sit...dunking our cookies.
As I got older, I decided I didn't like the "hard" cookies anymore. I ventured to find the right recipe to make soft, delicious anisette cookies. Although never trained formally as a baker, I fancy myself a good baker and wanted an improved version of Nana's cookies.
About 35 years ago I found the secret. FAT! My cookies needed more fat. I substituted heavy cream for her milk in the recipe and there it was. The stay soft anisette cookie I'd been searching for. They can still be dunked but they stay soft until they're gone.
Funny, but true story about my cookies. When Nicole was away at college and she asked me to make her some and send them. Being the good mom, I did. I want to say she got about a thousand of them. I baked, and her father iced. Our kitchen was green and red for days afterwards. I've had many people ask me for the recipe. I always oblige. No sense in keeping it a secret. So, read on and enjoy. To dunk or not to dunk is up to you.