Author Notes: Part of the magic of a recipe from the 1800's is that it does not contain very much sugar. The cloying sugary overkill I often associate with sugar cookie cutouts is absent here, replaced by a mellow, buttery bite of delicate vanilla, followed by the faint crunch of seeds and the refreshing echoes of anise. After a holiday meal, give me a cup of tea, a clementine, and one of these cookies, and I will be filled with content. —Anna Hezel
Makes about 40 cookies
- 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 3 eggs
- 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 teaspoon baking soda, dissolved in 2 tablespoons of water
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 3 cups flour (plus a little extra for rolling out the dough)
- 3 teaspoons anise seeds
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1/4 cup whole milk
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 pinch salt
- To make the cookies: Cream the butter and sugar together, and then mix in the eggs, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt.
- Add the flour, mixing until just combined, and then the anise seeds, mixing until they are more or less evenly distributed throughout the dough.
- Cover and refrigerate the dough for an hour or more.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Flour a surface and your rolling pin, and roll the dough out to about 1/4 of an inch. Cut cookies out using the cookie cutter of your choice, and place on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes, or until cookies are slightly puffed up and have turned a light golden color around the edges.
- While the cookies cool, make the frosting: cream together the butter and powdered sugar. Mix in the vanilla and salt, and add the milk a little bit at a time, halting once you've reached a smooth, spreadable consistency.