If something seems out of the ordinary, it will appeal to me. It was one of those days where I was craving something sweet, but had no clue what to make. To get ideas, I decided to flip through my cookbook collection. Most of the cookbooks I own look great on my bookshelf, but rarely get used. When ideas are scarce, like today, my seldom used cookbooks really come in handy. While flipping through them, I saw the usual: chocolate cake, lemon tart, muffins....and then, what's this I see? Anise + cookies? The idea intrigued me and I instantly decided to try it out.
Anise is a spicy licoricy plant that is used in a lot of Mediterranean and South Asian cooking. In Chinese cooking, star anise is also popularly used. It is a star-shaped spice that closely resembles the flavor of regular anise. To enhance the spiciness of the anise seeds, I decided to add a bit of cracked black pepper to my cookies.
I got the recipe idea from Paris Sweets, a wonderful collection of authentic & traditional recipes from famous Parisian bakeries. Wedged in between the recipes are the author's, Dorie Greenspan's, recollection of her sweet life in Paris.
These cookies have a meringue-like texture on the outside, but resemble a dry cookie on the inside. The anise seeds and black pepper are used to infuse an aroma to the cookie.
This recipe makes approx 18 cookies.
Black Pepper Anise Cookies
(Adapted from Paris Sweets by Dorie Greenspan)- 1 cup of all purpose flour
- 1 cup of sugar
- 2 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 1/2 Tbsp of anise seeds
- 1/4 tsp of cracked black pepper
- small pinch of fleur de sel
1. Pre-heat the oven to 350F/175C.
2. Combine the sugar, anise seeds, and cracked black pepper into a food processor and chop for one minute. Sift the sugar into a bowl, and discard the remaining anise seeds and black pepper.
3. In a large bowl, combine the sugar and eggs. With an electric mixer, mix for 3 minutes on the highest speed. With a spatula, fold in the flour slowly. Add in a small pinch of fleur de sel. Mix well. A smooth batter will form.
4. Spoon or pipe the cookies (approx 2 inch diameter) onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes or until cookies have a very faint burnt color around the edges.
TIP: If possible, spoon the entire batter onto baking sheets before baking. Your cookies will have a much smoother texture this way. Letting the batter sit for even 10 minutes, and then spooning it onto a baking sheet will create a bumpy texture. I made that mistake, and you can compare the picture below (bumpy texture) with the pictures above (smooth) to see the difference.
If you want an extra kick of spice, you can garnish these cookies with whole black peppercorns.