Isn't it lovely how food can truly anchor us to our past, our families, our heritage? Thank you for sharing not just a recipe with us, Barbara, but a true piece of your self! I hope you enjoyed the holidays and I wish you a prosperous New Year!
Maybe you have experienced similar things in your family: certain recipes are the sole right of my Mum to use and spoil the family and friends with. One of them is an aniseed cookie we use to eat at Christmas. The most important feature of this aniseed cookie is the risen dough, the so called “Fuessli” = little feet. No small feat when there is no yeast involved!
Heavily guarded family recipes and gloating behind the back when somebody else’s cookies had flat feet. Endless discussions on what needed to be done.
My Mum is getting on in years so I have decided to have a go at it and started checking recipes in my cookbooks. I found one recipe in a very old cookbook dating back to 1908, the following ingredients should be used and I have added some of the explanations:
Old recipe of 1908
460 – 500 g flour (dried on the oven and sieved!)
500 g fine and well dried sugar
4 big or 5 medium eggs
2 TS exquisitely picked aniseed
2 TS of cherry brandy (helps to rise the dough and to chase the often unpleasant egg odour!)
I have decided on a newer variation of the recipe (sourced from my mother’s cookbook and a standard cookbook of Swiss recipes):
Basle Cookbook of 1908
To be continued tomorrow, now it is time to put my marinated beef roast in the oven.
If you want to have a go at the cookie recipe, please:
300 g icing sugar
1 pinch salt
2 TS aniseed
350 g wheat flour
2 TS cherry brandy
Put eggs and sugar in your mixer and beat it to a light yellow frothy mixture (at least ten minutes)
Add salt, aniseed and cherry brandy
Slowly work in flour (the dough will still be a little bit sticky)
Cover bowl and put it in the fridge for an hour
Line a baking tin with baking paper
Roll out dough to a thickness of 1 cm and cut out your favourite cookie forms (stars, heart, ace)
Put cookies on your tin and let it dry over night at room temperature (make sure there is no draught)
Preheat oven to 150° C and bake on the lower third during 12 – 15 minutes
Timing is everything! Certainly, but why do I come up with a Christmas cookie recipe only now? Quite simply: I did not have the time nor the necessary leisure (cooking and baking is sheer meditation). And aniseed cookies are a treat at any time of the year, especially when they have become a little bit dry (*) and can be dunked in coffee – heaven!
* Tip: keep the cookies in a tin
My favorite part is the "2 TS exquisitely picked aniseed." The concept of choosing the seeds "exquisitely" truly elevates cooking to an art form and an act of love. :)
When I was in middle or high school we took a class called Home Economics and they taught sewing, cooking, etc. I remember writing down some of my grandmother's recipes on little cards and making some in class. I have a feeling they may be around somewhere. You have inspired me to look for them, Barbara! Happy Holidays!
Good on you. I only wish I had asked my Nan for her fruit mince pie recipe before she died. Why I hesitated, I have no idea.
@jpage.manuel Thank you so much, Joy, and a very Happy New Year to you! You are so right and it has really been a walk down memory lane, especially when remembering all the good advice received as a child (and not much heeded at that time). We only learn by our own mistakes, do we not?
Yes, I enjoyed the quiet in the few days in between and I am very happy it is Friday today! How were your holidays and did you have a good start in this baby year?
@Free Like Water Hi Jen! I never thought of it this way, how right you are! I remember as a child we had to pick aniseed and take out all the stems and other undesired items (cannot recall what they were), such a fidgety task and when I was tired of it I'd blow on them and would mess them up :)
@robindavidman Oh, this is lovely, Robin. This way we have a link to our roots, I still have recipes my grandmother put down on envelopes in her precise old fashioned handwriting, cherished memories. Do find them and share them with us, will you? Happy holidays and thanks for stopping by!
@JanineRipper It's difficult to have so many regrets, isn't it? I've been thinking about my Gram a lot. From childhood, I was obsessed with the idea of recording all the "family stories" so they wouldn't be lost. I didn't, of course. I do wish that my Gram had been more of a writer.
I imagine we often hesitate because we are so busy trying to enjoy the time we have left with beloved family members as they grow older that we only think of things like recipes or stories in retrospect. It's painful to lose those things, but perhaps we chose to do what was more important, by being in the moment with the person we loved. :)
@JanineRipper Hey, Janine, Merry Christmas to you and your family!
So with you. I am glad my mom and grandmother wrote down the recipes, not much good asking these days.
I still have part II to do today ...