Friday, June 14, 2024

American Cookie #3 {Ursuline Anise Cookies - St. Joseph's Day Cookie}

Each week, I'm going to be highlighting a new American Cookie and sharing it's history, as well as my results. This is the third week of baking with American Cookie by Anne Bryn, and I'm sharing Ursuline Anise Cookies, which are a sugar cookie with anise flavoring dating back to 1727 New Orleans!

The History of Ursuline Anise Cookies: In 1727, twelve French Catholic nuns from the Sisters of the Order of Saint Ursula (founded in Italy) came to New Orleans to educate girls and women (some also call them the casket girls). Their original convent was located at the corner of Chartres and Ursulines Avenue down in the French Quarter of New Orleans and is still in operation today! It is a tradition for those in the Catholic faith to bake anise cookies when St. Joseph's Day is celebrated on March 19th. Anise, with it's licorice flavor, has long been a celebratory flavoring of Europe, and has been prized as a digestive. 

We know New Orleans is famous for it's wide array of ethnic backgrounds and cuisines, including French, African, Cajun, Creole, but Italian cuisine was also quite popular in New Orleans. By 1850, the Italians (Sicilians in particular) populated New Orleans more than any other city in America.The Sicilian immigrants brought the tradition of staging a St. Joseph's Day altar, stacked with anise cookies, to New Orleans. This recipe and the tradition of staging the altar, still continue today.

My Results: Two years ago, I had the good fortune to visit New Orleans. We took a ghost tour right by the Ursuline Convent! Some say the 12 nuns that came over brought caskets and thus began all vampire lore in America, but for now we'll stick with them bringing us these delicious and addictive anise cookies! I have seen these cookies often and heard about them, but never tried them so wanted to make sure they had a spot in my roundup as they have quite the history here in America. I mean a cookie that's been around from 1727 and still exists today is no joke!

I had to special order the anise seed from Amazon because none of my stores carried it. When I placed the order I was hoping I would love the cookies because what on earth would I do with a whole container of anise seed? Well, the verdict is in and these cookies are absolutely amazing! Using up the whole jar of anise seeds will be no problem at all! I love how light and fluffy the cookies are and the anise seed gives the cookie just a very slight hint of licorice. I also love how you can see the anise seed running throughout the cookie like little flecks of flavor. The icing on top is nice and sweet and before you know it you can pound back three or four of these real quick. I think I preferred the cookies hot and fresh right out of the oven, but they are still very good once they've cooled. They are addictive enough on their own, but I imagine they would pair very well with coffee or tea. I love them! 

My Rating: 5 out of 5! My favorite cookie so far in my American Cookie series and a new favorite cookie that I will add to my rotation. There is a good reason these cookies have been around since 1727! More people need to be making them

I'm going to be rating all the cookies with the five-star format, one star being the lowest rating and five star being the highest.

Ursuline Anise Cookies

Adapted from American Cookie

by Anne Bryn

Makes 4 dozen

vegetable shortening for prepping the pans

2 teaspoons anise seeds

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, at room temperature

3/4 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Optional Icing

1 cup confectioners' sugar

2 tablespoons milk

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 baking sheets.

Crush the anise seeds coarsely with a mortar and pestle (or between sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin). Place in a large mixing bowl with the soft butter and beat with an electric mixer at medium speed until soft, about 1 minute. Gradually blend in the granulated sugar until creamy, about 1 minute. Beat the eggs into the mixture, one at a time, until well blended. Set aside.

Sift the flour with the baking powder and salt in a medium size bowl. Using the mixer on low speed, gradually mix the flour mixture into the butter and sugar mixture until just blended, 30 seconds. 

Shape the dough into 1" balls and place them 2" apart on the prepared baking sheets. Place a pan in the oven.

Bake the cookies until lightly browned around the bottom, about 9 to 11 minutes. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool, then store in airtight container.

If desired, for an icing, whisk together the confectioners' sugar and milk in a small bowl. You can tint it red or green at Christmastime, or use any other color any other time of year. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cookies, and let the icing set before serving.


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