I learned a lot of things about myself when I spent a month in Italy in college.
- I don't like to make grammatical mistakes, even in other languages.
- I like Italian coffee bars. Espresso or cappuccino, a biscotto or cornetto. A real cup, and a few seconds to enjoy. No 20-ounce sugar-free, non-fat, super duper caramel latte, no giant mediocre muffin, none of this to-go nonsense.
- I can live without peanut butter.
- I love-love-love the flavor of anise. It started with my first sip of Sambuca, and I haven't been able to stay away since.
These flavor of these cookies is subtle and sophisticated. They make a fantastic gift, because they are fancy and impressive, and they keep well without becoming stale.
Give some away in cute little tins, but save a few for breakfast!
adapted from Brown Eyed Baker
1.5 cups roasted unsalted almonds
2.5 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon anise extract
3 large eggs, plus 1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon anise seedes
Turbinado (raw) sugar for decorating the top
Preheat oven to 375. Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside. On a different rimmed baking sheet, arrange the almonds in a single layer. Place in the oven and toast until golden and fragrant, about 6-8 minutes. Cool completely. Sift together flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt, and set aside. Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add anise extract and beat to combine. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add flour mixture and stir to combine. Stir in almonds and anise seeds.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, and knead to form a cohesive ball. Make sure the nuts and seeds are evenly distributed. My dough was very sticky, so make sure to have extra flour handy for your hands. Divide dough in half, and shape each half into an oblong loaf, about 18 inches long, 6 inches wide, and 1 inch thick. Don't worry too much if these loaves look smooth and pretty - it doesn't matter after you cut them up. Transfer carefully to parchment-lined baking sheet and bake about 30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through the cooking time, until the loaves are golden and firm. Transfer parchment and loaves to a wire rack and cool 20 minutes. Decrease oven temperature to 300 degrees.
Using a serrated knife, slice loaves on the diagonal into 1/2-inch slices. Place a wire rack on a rimmed baking sheet, and arrange slices cut-side up. Bake about 30 minutes, and let cool completely on the rack.
Yield: about 4 dozen