Grown Up Anise Cookies (Vegan and Gluten Free)

by Maria Theresa Maggi on December 29, 2018

As I have written about before, my Dad was a staunch believer in the 12 Days of Christmas. Every year he would take from December 24 to January 6 off from work. He’d grow a beard and in general relax and enjoy himself. He especially savored the holiday baking we had done leading up to Christmas in those slow days after Christmas through the early days of January before he went back to work. I can still see him settling into a chair (Taurus that he was, he could settle into a chair like no one else I knew at the time), with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and some of the Italian cookies we had made.

Unlike most people, he was never a lover of chocolate or frosting. In fact he preferred the cookies that seemed “plain” to us little girls–in particular the anise cookies my Mom would make just for him, leaving off the frosting and the multi-colored sprinkles we kids thought were the best part. Instead of frosting, she’d put a single almond on the top. He loved those, biscotti, and savory cookies called tarrales best of all.

I’ve blogged about my adventures and ultimate success in revamping the biscotti of my childhood to be vegan and gluten free, or made with spelt flour, but I never could figure out how to approach the anise cookie conundrum. The full recipe sports 6 eggs and 3/4 cup of melted Crisco. I wanted to be able to do it without earth balance or coconut oil, so for lo, these many years, I have been at an impasse.

Like my Dad, I still love to honor the 12 days of Christmas, even if it means I obstinately continue to sing songs from the Muppet Christmas Carol while I walk the dogs and listen to jazz Christmas standards while doing the dishes. Most importantly, I’m just happy to observe the slow turn of the year, to embrace that within the heart of winte the sun begins to slowly climb higher in the sky, even as the winds blow and the temperatures are brisk and the sky is gray. It’s like planting a seed of light and watching it grow.

This New Year’s Eve I’ll be celebrating by having a couple of my neighbor friends over who are game to eat vegan and gluten free with me. One who reads my blog has even volunteered to make us some black-eyed pea soup so that left me with the pleasant task of experimenting on dessert. Every year my sister makes the traditional anise cookies with the frosting and the sprinkles, and the other day I asked her to take a picture of the old recipe card and send it to me on her phone. Here is the version I came up with. I think my Dad would enjoy this adaptation “grown-up” anise cookies. They’re light and fluffy and packed with anise flavor–but without the artery hardening lard and eggs.

I know it’s the time of year when most people are thinking about getting back to healthier eating patterns instead of adapting cookie recipes, but I’m still celebrating. In fact I won’t be “done” celebrating officially until my birthday arrives–exactly two weeks after Christmas. And these cookies are so healthy yet tasty that it isn’t going to hurt to eat a few with my friends on New Year’s Eve.

In a way these activities are a form of merry prankster protest. As a little girl, I was often crestfallen that Vic’s Ice Cream, who made the best ice cream cakes in the city where I was raised, closed its doors for “vacation” in the month of January. So did the castle at Fairy Tale Town. So sitting in the castle serving ice cream cake to other 8 year olds was out for me. Here, 55 years later, I’m running into the same old story. Today I found out that one restaurant overlooking the ocean I’d been eyeing for a possible birthday lunch out also usually closes for the month of January. But us January girls are resourceful.  Such failure of imagination about January gives me all the more reason to celebrate with my own re-envisioned treats and special occasions. No doors closed for January keep a good Capricorn woman down.

And now, in honor of my father, I think I’ll go get one of these grown-up anise cookies and dunk it in my tea. If you’re feeling a little adventurous, I hope you’ll join me. Happy Almost New Year!

Maria (moonwatcher)


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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Veronica January 2, 2019 at 8:53 am

Happy new year, Maria! And a belated Merry Christmas. 🙂 We kept things simple this year, as it was just the two of us celebrating. Sometimes that’s just what you need, though! I’ve been working on adapting dessert recipes, too! I don’t think I’ll be trying your anise cookies (I hate the taste of anise/licorice), but I love how you combined both flax and aquafaba for the egg! I’ve been on an aquafaba kick lately (I love the stuff), but never thought to combine it with flax. I will try it!
I wish you all the very best in 2019 – thank you for being a friend, and sharing your stories. Happy early birthday! I know you’ll find something perfect to do. 🙂 xoxo


2 Maria Theresa Maggi January 2, 2019 at 2:52 pm

Happy New Year back to you Veronica!Keeping things simple is often the very best thing. And no worries, with anise it’s totally you love or you hate it, I get that. Good luck with your aqua faba experiments! Let me know what you discover. 🙂 And thanks for the early birthday wishes! 🙂 xoxo


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