In the kitchen: Anise Sesame Cookies

Being stuck with a large container of sesame seeds puts a girl in a position of wanting to putter around the kitchen. Really, it does.

I love cookies, and Martha, despite my recollections (obviously false) doesn’t use them in her Xmas cookies, or at least she didn’t in last year’s cookie issue. So I had to surf, surf and surf some more. Oh, if only this were LA and I wasn’t being glib about that…

I found a great recipe for Golden Sesame Cookies and instead of vanilla I thought I’d add a little Anise oil. But because I used just a dribble of rum extract in the banana cake I made the other day, and couldn’t really taste the rumminess, I gave the bottle a lil’ extra shake.

See where this is going? Kinda like a train wreck, is it not?

My friends, I’m not a huge fan of anise. I like Sambuca, but (and this I type as I chew a fun size Twizzler- sorry trick’or’treaters) I don’t care for black licorice. And yet, I dumped at least a third teaspoon of anise oil in the dough. Ech. I tried tempering it with a bit of vanilla, dumped in some extra flour. Ech, ech, ech. (Pause to unwrap and snarf down another Twizzler.) Ech, ech, ech. Call it one of those cases where you know what the right thing to do is, but you willfully ignore it for the sake of an experiment. Or you’re just willfully ditzy. Yikes.

The cookies are good, they are pretty, they have texture. And they taste like licorice, but with seeds. (Pause for palate-cleansing bowl of cereal, likely to be followed by a palate-cleansing cup of cocoa.) The following recipe, with several modifications, produced the desired texture. The proper taste can be achieved by remembering that less is more- use a drop of Anise oil rather than a 1/3 tsp and 1/2 a tsp of vanilla rather than a full tsp. The original recipe included rolling out the dough and cutting it out, but I thumbprinted them instead, because it’s cuter. If you have some jam you are fond of, a little dab of that won’t hurt either.

Anise Sesame Cookies (adapted from
yield: 48

1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 drop Anise oil
3/4 confectioners’ sugar
1 egg
1 1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sesame seeds toasted

Toast the seeds:
Pour them into a shallow pan and place in a 300F oven for 10 minutes or until golden. Stir occasionally.

Prepare the dough:
Cream the butter and vanilla, adding the sugar in increments.
Beat in the egg.
Sift the remaining dry ingredients together and add to the butter mixture, alternating with the sesame seeds.
When the dough is thoroughly blended, wrap it in plastic and freeze for one hour.

Baking time:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll a ball of dough the size of a walnut between your palms, flatten with your thumb on an ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.
Place cookie sheet on rack to cool, then transfer cookies to cookie tin.

Side note: the Anise oil was my grandmother’s. Were she with us, she would have scolded me for using too much, tasted one of the cookies and then laughed. She was my hero.

Another note: my friends were “meh” about the cookies, but my parents loved them. In fact, they were a little miffed when they found out I’d tossed them in the bin.


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