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Dec 14, 2012 11:47 PM

Cookie recipe questions for exp. bakers, re:vanilla

I am tweaking a cookie recipe. The cookie is made with anise extract only in the cookie and the frosting. I am trying to up the flavor factor, make it stronger, more complex. I don't want to just add additional anise extract (already has 3 tsp, but there are 6.5 c. flour). I am afraid if I add more, the dough will get stickier and the final product should result in a smooth rounded cookie, similar in shape to a higher egg yolk. If the dough is too sticky, the resulting cookie is uneven andfull of little points. Would adding a tsp of vanilla up the flavor complexity? I don't want to change the flavor, I want the anisette profile but what exactly would vanilla add? The cookie itself is almost bland, one note. It is made with butter flavored crisco to keep it more cake like and softer, so it gets no flavor from actual butter and no salt. Many recipes that call for a flavored extract besides vanilla, also seem to include vanilla also so I thought it might add a different note. Or perhaps a citrus zest? Something subtle but complimentary? I need help please.


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  1. Have you made the recipe before or are you making assumptions based on the ingredients?

    Anise can be a pretty assertive flavor on its own. I'm not sure that vanilla is going to help you out. I like the zest idea but if you've not made the recipe before, I would try as written first. Or find another recipe.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Sushiqueen36

      Oh yes, this is a traditional family cookie recipe. I made it for years growing up with my father. After he passed, I kept making the cookies but something was never right. i have been attempting to tweak this recipe for at least 12 years (I only make them once a year)and cannot figure out why it is not like it used to be. I have added flour, subtracted flour, added eggs, subtracted egg yolks, eliminated egg yolks. Now at least the texture is closer to what it should be, however the flavor is blah.


      1. re: Jerseygirl111

        do you include salt as part of the ingredients? it's necessary in about all baked goods.

        you could add crushed fennel seed, or sub in sambuca or pernod for some of the extract.

        1. re: hotoynoodle

          That's what I was thinking -- or fennel pollen dusting if you want to get fancy w an expensive ingredient? (The pollen is more subtle than ground up seeds.) The anise knot cookies we make get most of their flavor in the thin confectioner sugar glaze. Sambuca would kick that up.

        2. re: Jerseygirl111

          Just a thought, could it be the Crisco? They reformulated a while back and many have experienced different results in old recipes.

      2. Is this recipe Italian in origin? I make an Italian anise cookie that sounds similar (definitely NOT Crisco, though!).

        But it does call for orange-flower water; that adds a subtle citrus flavour so I am thinking your zest idea would work...

        The other thing is this recipe calls for actual anise seeds (you can mix them in whole or, as I do, crush them in a mortar with pestle). If you want to up the flavour punch without changing direction, you could give that a try, but I'd be inclined to hold back a bit on the anise essence.

        Good luck!

        1. This year I finally added a bit of salt but was afraid to add too much so only added a 1/2 tsp. probably did not make much of a difference with that much flour.

          Would you advise substituting the anise extract with the Sambuca? Or adding it in addition? I do mix my icing with anise and milk, but the cookies themselves are just not flavorful.

          There is a difference when I use the butter flavor Crisco vs. the plain Crisco, but if the formula changed there is not much I can do about it.

          Part of the problem is I am unsure of what the proper ratio of flour/eggs/extract should be for a good balance of flavor. I have seriously reduced the amount of extract in the cookies because the dough was too wet and sticky to form proper balls, let alone the twists and knots my father used to make. So now I am left with the proper amount of cookies/yield, but the cookie is lacking.


          6 Replies
          1. re: Jerseygirl111

            I'm thinking salt is probably necessary to amp it up, although the citrus zest could be a nice complement. 2 to 3 teaspoons of salt is probably more in-range for 6.5 cups of flour.

            1. re: Jerseygirl111

              ooooh-- definitely more salt. i use more than that with just 2-3 cups flour.

              i'll confess that i cannot stand the mouthfeel of crisco of any kind in baked goods.

              is there any way you might think about making these with butter or some other more natural fat?

              since none of us know the recipe, we're all just kinda
              flinging spaghetti at the wall for you. :)

              1. re: Jerseygirl111

                Adding Sambucca or Anisette in place of the Anise Extract makes no sense, it has a weaker flavor so you will need to add more liquid to get the same intensity thus a wetter dough.
                As stated by others Salt and Vanilla would help a lot. The quantity of Vanilla Extract should not be hard to adjust for. If you are too worried about the liquids use Vanilla seed or Paste.
                Orange is often paired with Anise in Italian baked goods but that will not be your Dad's Cookie flavor anymore.
                If adding more extract is making your dough too sticky you need more flour or less fat or egg. Perhaps you are using larger eggs than the recipe called for originally? or Crisco (ich) is different?
                I assume that your recipe is "secret" because none of us can really be sure of what the problem is with out that info.

                1. re: chefj

                  Oh silly me. No one asked me to post the recipe so I didn't.

                  This is the Original recipe, in his writing.

                  1c sugar
                  1 1/2 c flour
                  4 tsp baking powder
                  2 1/4 c flour
                  4 tsp anise extract
                  1/2c butter crisco

                  Beat eggs and yolks, sugar and anise with mixer. Add 1st flour. Mix with spoon. Add crisco then last flour and baking powder. Shape into balls, twists, etc. Bake at 350 untill just lightly browned about 12 min.

                  Then there is an almost doubled recipe next to it.

                  8 eggs+2yolks
                  2c sugar
                  3c flour
                  8 tsp baking powder
                  4 c flour
                  1 bottle of anise
                  1c Crisco butter flavored

                  Neither of these produce a workable dough.

                  I have tried deleting the extra yolks. Reducing the total eggs to 6 and reducing the anise to 2 tsp and preparing the recipe in the proper order, creaming crisco and sugar, eggs, anise, then adding the dry ingredients.

                  2010 I did this:

                  6 whole eggs (use large, think he actually used extra lg)
                  2 c sugar
                  1c Crisco butter flavored
                  4 tsp anise extract
                  6 tsp baking powder
                  7 c. Flour
                  The cookies were drier but began to crack open on the top.

                  I reduced the baking powder to 3 tsp and the anise to 3 tsp. I had to add 1/4 c. water because it was too dry.

                  This year here is what I did.
                  1 c Crisco (butter flav.)
                  6 whole large eggs
                  3 tsp anise extract
                  2 c sugar
                  1/4 tsp salt
                  6 1/2 c flour

                  The dough is dry but not dry enough to roll into twists. I don't notice the salt did anything. The cookies themselves need more flavor. I know my fathers dough was much more yellow(from the eggs?) One year I did substitute reg Crisco for butter flav. Crisco but the cookies were blander. I think he used Crisco over butter because the cookies are softer. Also possible my grandmother used lard originally and this was his substitute. Either way, they are not the same texture with butter. I have been working on this since he died in 1995 but have only started keeping track of my changes the past few years. Previously, I just made his recipe and cried in frustration every Christmas. I will not let this beat me! Lol.

                  Thanks for the help! I really appreciate it.


                  1. re: Jerseygirl111

                    Jerseygirl, my two cents -- you may get a richer, more flavorful, and drier dough by going back to the whole egg/egg yolk combination in the original recipe. A lot of your liquid (but not much flavor) is coming from those egg whites. Also, it looks like you reduced the anise extract proportionally from the original; I would up the anise flavor with the extract while eliminating liquid to compensate by cutting out some egg whites.

                    And, again up the salt!

                    I don't have a lot of experience baking with crisco, but if that's how you like it stick with it -- if it worked for your Dad it will probably work for you once the ratios are sorted out (unless there's been some recipe change on their end).

                    And then there are the other flavor enhancers others have discussed, which might create a slightly different cookie.

                    Good luck! I would love to hear if you get it to a place where you're happy with the result, because it sounds like a really neat tradition and a tasty cookie.

                    1. re: Memorando

                      and i don't know how many decades old the op's recipe is, but crisco has changed its formula numerous times over the years. at first replacing the cottonseed oil with cheaper soybean oil, then jiggering in palm oil.


                      a quick google sees lots of bakers complaining about tried and tried recipes bombing.

                      i have never liked the mouthfeel of Crisco so don't use it. honestly i'd go back to the drawing board with whole eggs and butter.

              2. What about adding some seeds to a batch of sugar, let it stand for a week or two, I think your flavour might intensify. Anise can be quite a powerful ingredient. What about pairing your cookie with a nice apperitif on the side?

                Suggestion in link below:

                1. 1 Tbsp of extract for 6 1/2 cups of flour isn't enough if you really want to taste the anise - I'd use 1 tsp for every 1 1/2 cups of flour, so you'd need to add at least another tsp if not more. If you're concerned about the dough becoming too wet or loose, you can cut back on other liquids in the batter to adjust for it (I don't know what else you've got in there). Otherwise, use ground anise seeds as other posters have suggested - you'll get a nice, deep anise flavor from them. If you want a more "complex" flavor that goes beyond anise, lemon zest (or extract if you don't want the textured bits in there) would be a nice complementary addition.

                  And yes, sufficient salt is essential!