Every year I watch a video of Christmas Eve 1986 at my Aunt Ionia's home and every year I cry for the memories, for the good times, and for the sorrow that those times have ended. My Aunt Ionia hosted all of us at her apartment for Christmas Eve -- sometimes we would have as many as 30 people in her home. As I grew older I helped her with the party preparations.
Ionia was our Christmas Angel, she always made Christmas fun! On her cookie tray there would always be Anise Cookies. For weeks before Christmas she would make cookies, probably 10-12 different kinds. She would store the cookies and fudge on the steps of her unheated attic. Aunt Ionia passed away in 2003. After her passing, my cousin Cindy made a cookbook including all the recipes that she made, including a recipe for Anise Cookies.
In that cook book she wrote the following about the Anise Cookies: "These are a long known favorite of Ralph's (my cousin's husband). He always got his private box of these cookies and they were for him only (although we know Pat (my cousin) has done her best to find his stash). Paul (my cousin and Cindy's brother) also loves these cookies and is working on perfecting the recipe. For those of us who have tried to make these cookies, it is very difficult to get them as thin and crispy as Aunt Ionia. Then, there is the debate whether they are better with or without frosting. Either way, they are an annual Christmas favorite."
My cousin Cindy passed away a few years ago, and this year(2012) my cousin Paul passed away. My dear Aunt Maxine, mother to Cindy and Paul, has lost both of her children, and her husband died about 20 years ago. As I was making these cookies, I wondered if Aunt Ionia was helping Paul perfect his technique in making Anise Cookies, and as I did this the tears flowed. As for the debate about icing or just colored sugar, I would say I like them with the colored sugar because that is how Ionia made them. So again I wonder if they are really making Anise cookies in heaven this year? I would guess that they are....
Some of my Christmas cookie cutters. Nothing fancy here just Wilton, Ekco, and Cake Mate Cutters. I do have some more substantial cookie cutters, but these are the kind Ionia would have used. She also had some vintage metal ones.
Recipe for Anise Cookies
1 cup butter (no margarine)
1 cup sugar
2 teaspoons Anise Oil (not extract -- see photo below)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups flour
In a large mixing bowl cream the butter, eggs, and sugar. Then add the anise oil. Then mix in the baking powder, cinnamon, salt, and flour.
Mix well and chill. I usually chill overnight. Roll out and cut, making sure you cut a thin cookie. Even if chilled over night, you will need to add some flour for ease of rolling out the cookies. Sprinkle with colored sugar before baking. Bake at 375 degrees for about 7 minutes.
Joni's Notes: This amount of anise oil might be too strong for some, but it is how she made them, and we love them. To avoid anise oil transfer, do not store these cookies with other cookies. Roll the cookies as thin as you can, and then watch them carefully to avoid burning, in the oven.
This is the oil I use. One little bottle is almost 2 teaspoons. In Utah, you can purchase Anise Oil at grocery stores. If you cannot find it in your grocery store, it can be purchased online.