History/Region of Origin. Native to the Middle East. Ancient Romans ended their elaborate feasts with anise cakes, hung anise plants near their pillows to prevent bad dreams, and used anise seed to aid digestion and ward off epileptic attacks. In magical practice, anise seed is said to increase psychic abilities and ward off the Evil Eye.
Uses: The seeds are used in Indian cuisine to enhance the flavor of soups and fish, and are eaten alone after dinner as a digestif. In Italy and Germany they are added to bread and to strong gingerbread dough.
In the Mediterranean, anise makes frequent appearances in cakes, breads, cookies and liquors. In small amounts, anise makes a nice addition to sausage, or in tomato sauce.
ANISE SEED BUTTER COOKIES
4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoons anise seeds
1/4 cup white sugar for decoration
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside. In a large bowl, cream together the butter and 1 cup sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs one at a time then stir in the vanilla. Gradually mix in the sifted ingredients and anise seeds until well blended. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Grease cookie sheets. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch in thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 1/2 inches apart onto cookie sheets. Sprinkle the tops with a mixture of the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar and cinnamon.
Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, until light brown. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before removing to wire racks to cool completely.