These tender, flaky, yet crisp Anise Wreath Cookies are prepared with a basic rolled cookie dough, but flavoured with crushed anise seeds. Sprinkled with green sanding sugar, these licorice-flavoured cookies are a great addition to any holiday cookie exchange or cookie platter!
This is my third time preparing a Christmas confection with the highlighted flavour being anise. This time, I took inspiration from Mary Ann at the Beach House Kitchen. Her version of these cookies were so perfect that I did not change one thing about them. The only difference you will find is that hers are much prettier than mine! I love the taste of anise, so thank you, Mary Ann, for such a delicious recipe!
Did you try my Star Anise Biscotti from last year’s 12 Biscotti of Christmas series? That was my second anise-flavoured confection. The year before that, I included Star Anise Cookies in my 24 Cookies of Christmas series. It really is one of those flavours that you love or hate. I don’t think there’s much room for one to teeter on the fence when it comes to anise.
When I plan each Christmas countdown series, I try to include different types so that there’s something for everyone to enjoy. I consider things like different levels of baking knowledge, different cookie preparation techniques, and most certainly, different flavours. Anise is certainly different, but the way this cookie comes together is quite easy – and you get to use your rolling pin and cookie cutters again!
INGREDIENTS NEEDED FOR THIS COOKIE:
- Flour – No need for anything special. Just use regular all-purpose flour. I have not tried this recipe with any other type of flour.
- Baking Powder – This is used to increase the volume of the batter and to add texture as well.
- Butter – Make sure your butter is at room temperature!
- Sugar – Sugar will caramelize when baked, which will help to brown cookies. It will create a crispness to the bottom of the cookie.
- Vanilla Extract – Probably the most common extract and the most common flavouring used in cakes and cookies.
- Egg – One large egg is all you need. Whenever you set out to bake, make sure your eggs are at room temperature too – just like your butter!
- Sanding Sugar – Coarse sugar, sometimes referred to as sanding sugar, is used sometimes for decorative purposes. It is sometimes called pearl sugar or coarse baking sugar.
- Anise Seeds – These seeds are licorice flavoured and can be easily found in most baking supply stores.
LET’S TALK ABOUT ANISE
First of all, let’s start by stating that Anise Seeds (sometimes written as aniseed) is not the same as Star Anise. Anise Seeds or Aniseed, is a spice that is related to dill, fennel and caraway. It’s what you will find used in liquors such as Sambuca or Ouzo. In some instances the seeds are left whole, but in most cases, the seeds are ground before being incorporated into recipes.
In contrast, Star Anise is the star shaped fruit of a tree that is a member of the magnolia family. It has a similar licorice flavor as Anise Seeds, but the flavour is stronger and more potent. It is most often used in Asian cooking. For example, it is one of the main ingredients in the popular Chinese five-spice blend.
If you’re not experienced with the flavours of anise, let me try my best to describe this unique flavour to you. I mentioned that it had a licorice flavour, and it does. It tastes like black licorice. If you like that taste, or if you like the taste of fennel, you’ll love anise. Fennel seeds are used quite often in sausage recipes, so you’ll probably already be familiar with the flavour. Since there are many candies that have adopted the anise flavour, you’ve probably tried it many times over.
You can buy star anise in its whole form. It’s hard and comes in the shape of an eight pointed star. They’re actually quite pretty! You can ground the seeds and use them in your recipes. The most common of the two, anise seeds, are usually already ground and found in most large grocery stores and baking supply stores.
MORE CHRISTMAS CONFECTIONS!
Maybe you don’t care much for cookies. Or, maybe you’re impatient and can’t wait to see what tomorrow’s recipe will be! If either one of those applies to you, I have a remedy. Last year, I published a series called Lord Byron’s 12 Biscotti of Christmas. The year before that, I published a series called Lord Byron’s 12 Bundt Cakes of Christmas. And, just a few days ago, I finished this year’s mini series call Lord Byron’s 12 Truffles of Christmas. You can click on the image below and see the entire series on one page! Don’t worry, you won’t lose this page. It will open up a new page so that you can easily get back to these cookies!
IS SANDING SUGAR AND GRANULATED SUGAR THE SAME THING?
I get so many questions about the different kinds of sugars. Unless you’re a full time baker, or really in-tune with baking ingredients, it can be a little overwhelming. I use sanding sugar quite often and I hope it’s not too difficult for you to find. Sanding sugar is sometimes referred to as baking sugar, and there are some substitutes.
You can use other sugars – which are basically the same, but named something differently – there’s pearl sugar and coarse sugar. You cannot, however, use granulated sugar. Let me explain why. Whereas an individual granule of sanding sugar is large and hard, a single granule of granulated sugar is quite small. Sanding sugar will hold up to the heat in your oven without melting; granulated sugar will not. These cookies are baked at 350 degrees F. So, you could use regular granulated sugar in this instance.
If you can only find granulated sugar, you can either skip the coating in sugar step, or you can use turbinado sugar. Turbinado sugar is a golden brown though, so it will throw off the colour of your finished cookie. Wilton calls it sparkling sugar. Wilton sells lots of colours too, just like the green you see here.
MORE INTENSE LICORICE FLAVOUR
Did you know that you can buy anise in extract form? Yes! I love the Watkins brand of extracts and it’s the only anise-flavoured extract that I’m familiar with. If you absolutely love the taste of black licorice, you can use anise extract in this cookie recipe. Simply replace the vanilla extract with the anise and use the same amount.
If you can easily find Watkins products in stores where you live, then you are quite lucky! I can find a few things, but nothing uncommon like anise extract. Before covid, I used to buy it at Walmart in the US, but now I have to get it online. You can buy it online directly from Watkins, if you wish.
HOW TO MAKE ANISE WREATH COOKIES
One of my favourite things about this recipe, other than the great taste and the cuteness, of course, is that I don’t have to chill the dough. I cannot tell you how much that annoys me! Whenever I’m in the mood to bake, I want to bake right then and there – not an hour later once the dough has chilled. An hour from now I’m already onto something else -who has time for that? I do have some recipes that require chilling the dough first, but it irks me so much. Not this one though!
These are easy enough to make, even though there are a few steps to getting them to look perfect. By perfect, I mean a dough that will not spread or rise while baking. I also mean a dough that is clean and free of any flour residue from the rolling of the dough. I’ll break down the steps here and walk you through it. Before you start prepare the cookie dough, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Now, in a mixing bowl, use a hand-held mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Next, add the egg and the vanilla and beat into the butter mixture. You want this mixture to be creamy and smooth, so give it a good beating – at least 3 minutes. Set that aside and measure the flour, baking powder, and anise into another bowl. Whisk it to combine. Add one cup of the flour mixture at a time to the butter mixture and beat well after each addition to incorporate. Once that’s done, the cookie dough is prepared and ready to be rolled out!
COOKIE ASSEMBLY AND BAKING
Gather the dough together with your hand and separate it into the three portions. Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough a 1/4 inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Do not dust with flour! The flour will prevent the sugar from sticking to the cookies. Once rolled, gently peel off the top layer of parchment. Set it aside to use for the next portion of dough.
Using two round (or scalloped) cookie cutters, one being larger than the other, cut the dough into wreath shapes. Carefully, but swiftly, use a metal spatula to lift the wreaths off the parchment and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with sanding sugar. Bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool for a full 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire cooling rack. Repeat until all dough has been used.
MORE CHRISTMAS RECIPES!
Did you know that I’ve been posting a 24 Cookies of Christmas series for a few years now? There are over 100 Christmas cookie recipes that you can find right here at Lord Byron’s Kitchen! To make it easier to find, I have created a page for each series. Just click on the image below and you’ll find the full series for that volume all one page!
POINTERS ON ROLLING COOKIE DOUGH
How are your dough rolling skills? Mine are horrible, which is why I cheated! I love using my rolling pins and any excuse I can get to practice my rolling skills, I’m up for it. A while ago, I used to have a collection of wooden rolling pins, but I got rid of them all just because I was short on space. We still have the rolling pin that belonged to John.e’s mom.
Cheated; oh, yes! A few years ago, I purchased a Joseph Joseph Adjustable Rolling Pin. You must Google it if you don’t know what type of rolling pin I’m referring to. I always have a problem with rolling dough evenly, no matter how much I love to practice. This particular rolling pin eliminates my inadequate dough rolling technique. It has interchangeable disks on each end of the wooden pin with specific measurements. You can get perfectly flat dough every single time!
Maybe I should hashtag the Joseph Joseph product line with hopes that just like the sugar plums dancing through those children’s heads in T’was the Night Before Christmas poem, that I might too inspire the product line to gift me another rolling pin. Why not!? T’is the season of giving, after all! #josephjoseph
TIPS & TRICKS: If you want to put out a tray of cookies which will impress your guests and possibly make you look like a professional baker, try this! When you cut out the middle part of your wreath with a smaller cookie cutter, don’t place it back into the pile of dough to be re-rolled. Bake them just like that. You can sprinkle them with a contrasting colour of sanding sugar or even with confectioner’s sugar once they are fully cooled. Piled onto a cookie platter, they look great! Also, they are much smaller and dainty for those with smaller appetites!
STORING, PACKAGING, & FREEZING
When it comes to most cookies, they taste best at room temperature, but they don’t hold up well to being left out on your countertop for long periods of time. Cookies will stay fresh in a cookie jar or food-safe container with a lid for 3-5 days if left to sit on your kitchen countertop. You can store them in a food-safe container in your fridge. When you want one, two, or half a dozen, take them out of the container and place them in a single layer on a plate. Let them sit at room temperature for 5 minutes and they’re ready!
If you plan to freeze your Anise Wreath Cookies, you certainly can! Once they are completely cooled, pile them into a clean, food-safe container. The container must be freezer friendly! You’ll want to ensure a very tight fitting lid too. I use these quite often when freezing baked goods. I like to place a sheet of plastic wrap over the top of the container before pushing the lid on. This helps to create a better seal. The goal is to keep all of that freshness locked in!
You can freeze these cookies for up to three months. If you plan to give previously frozen cookies as a gift, I would lay them out onto a wire cooling rack to thaw completely. Once thawed, pile into cellophane bags and tie with a ribbon, or stack in a cookie tin/box.
If I have not answered all of your questions in the text above, don’t hesitate to reach out to me! You can contact me by sending me a message in the comments section further down the page. I will try my best to answer as soon as possible! You might reach me even faster by following me on Facebook and sending me a private message. Scroll down to follow me and never miss another recipe!
Finally, as I stated previously, every day I will be posting a new recipe. If you miss one, don’t fret. You can find my entire collection of Christmas Recipes right here! There are over 100 Christmas recipes and counting. There’s something for everyone! Cheers!
Anise Wreath Cookies
- 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 large egg
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tablespoon anise seeds, crushed
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/4 cup sanding sugar
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Now, in a mixing bowl, use a hand-held mixer to beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
- Next, add the egg and the vanilla and beat into the butter mixture. You want this mixture to be creamy and smooth, so give it a good beating – at least 3 minutes.
- Set that aside and measure the flour, baking powder, and anise into another bowl. Whisk it to combine.
- Add one cup of the flour mixture at a time to the butter mixture and beat well after each addition to incorporate.
- Gather the dough together with your hand and separate it into the three portions.
- Working with one portion at a time, roll the dough a 1/4 inch thick between two sheets of parchment paper. Do not dust with flour!
- Once rolled, gently peel off the top layer of parchment. Set it aside to use for the next portion of dough.
- Using two round (or scalloped) cookie cutters, one being larger than the other, cut the dough into wreath shapes.
- Carefully, but swiftly, use a metal spatula to lift the wreaths off the parchment and transfer it to the prepared baking sheet.
- Sprinkle with sanding sugar.
- Bake for 10 minutes.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool for a full 5 minutes on the baking sheet before transferring to wire cooling rack. Repeat until all dough has been used.