Anise Taralli Cookies

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There are two types of Italian taralli; one is a sweet cookie and the other is a rustic savory biscuit.  Taralli are made throughout southern Italy and the recipe variations are numerous.  Depending what area in Italy, they are also served at different times of the year – such as Easter or All Souls Day (Giorno dei Morti).  This recipe is for the typical Sicilian taralli, a not-too sweet cookie, topped with a snow-white glaze.  The glaze is made with a sugar syrup that hardens upon cooling.  For the sake of simplicity, I’ve included the recipe for a much simpler glaze made with confectioner’s sugar.

Taralli can be flavored lemon, orange, or vanilla, but my favorite is anise.  I especially enjoy anise flavored cookies with a cup of coffee or espresso – the combination is a great marriage of flavors.  This recipe was handed down to me by my great-aunt Marietta who lived to age 95. These cookies are flavored with anise extract and Anisette liqueur.  Anisette and Sambuca are liqueurs flavored with anise seed, which is similar to licorice in taste.

ANISE TARALLI COOKIES
(Taralli all’Anice)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 3 dozen cookies.

FOR THE COOKIES: .
4 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
2 tablespoons Anisette or Sambuca liqueur
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon anise extract
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

FOR THE GLAZE:
1 pound powdered sugar (about 4 cups)
5-6 tablespoons milk or water
2 tablespoons Anisette or Sambuca liqueur

MAKE THE COOKIES:  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Add the butter and shortening to the flour mixture.  Mix together by rubbing the mixture between your hands until the butter and shortening are thoroughly incorporated.  The mixture should resemble all-purpose baking mix.

In a mixer bowl, beat the sugar and eggs on medium speed until thick and sugar is dissolved, about 5 minutes.  Add the liqueur, milk, extract, and lemon zest, beat 1 additional minute.  Add in the flour mixture and mix at low-speed until combined, about 2 minutes.  Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or overnight.

SHAPE THE COOKIES:  Preheat the oven to 350°.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Divide the dough into 3 equal portions.  Working with one-third of the dough at a time, dough each portion into 12 equal pieces.  Refrigerate remaining dough.

Roll each piece on flat surface or board, into a thin rope, 3/8-inch wide by 12-inches long.

Cut the rope in half and lay the pieces parallel to each other.

Gently twist the 2 pieces into a cord.

 

Bring the open ends together forming a wreath and pinch the ends closed so that it appears seamless.  Place 1 1/2 – inches apart on cookie sheet.  Bake 17 to 18 minutes, until lightly golden on top.  Repeat with the remaining cookie dough.  Let cool completely before glazing.

MAKE THE GLAZE:  Combine the powdered sugar, Anisette, and milk in a small bowl and stir until smooth.  Add more milk if necessary for desired consistency.

Dip the tops of the cookies into the glaze and place right-side-up on a rack until the glaze hardens, about 3 hours.  Store in an airtight container.

TECHNIQUE TIP:  Place a cooling rack over parchment paper or foil on the countertop to allow excess glaze to drip and air to circulate around the cookies to facilitate drying.  It also makes for easier clean-up.

MAKE AHEAD: The taralli cookies can be frozen with glaze for up to 6 weeks. Thaw at room temperature several hours before serving.

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