I’m way ahead of Christmas this year. I already know what everyone’s gift is going to be and I’ve even already purchased a couple of items that are now waiting patiently in the back of my closet for 24 December to roll around.
I’m also busy planning this year’s holiday menu(s). I’m still brainstorming and it’s going to be hard to pick the final line-up, there’s just too much deliciousness available! Among all the craziness that has hit the planet these past weeks and months, it’s been hard to get into the spirit of the Holidays in terms of the superficial holiday cheer. But perhaps we’re more ready than usual to get lulled into the holiday spirit in terms of the comfortable numbness that comes with overeating and the eggnog and the feeling of community and generosity that we’re supposed to foster during this time (and of course always, the end of the year is just a special reminder). The holidays – regardless of what religion you look at – are all about reaching out and spending time with loved ones (and reconsider our relationship to people we do not hold so dear), sharing moments of harmony and creating a safe haven for one another, if only for a little while. It’s going to be hard to balance keeping in mind the situation around the world and that untouchable feeling of peace and comfort.
In this spirit, I spent this weekend baking cookies. I made so many that I ran out of tins to put them in (not that I have many). I plan on giving most of them away, and for this purpose I wanted a bit of a selection. I still need to make about three types, but then I’ll definitely be done with the cookie baking for this year.
I’ve been meaning to bring more seasonal recipes to the blog, and what better time than now, when it’s still November and most people still have their cookie baking ahead of them? So, today I bring you anise clouds. They’re light, fragile and a tiny piece of heaven on your tongue. I love anise. I’m a known ouzo addict (my parents-in-law always have a bottle chilled for me), and a big fan of teas and candy containing anise. So, of course, I had to try the anise clouds recipe when I tried it. They’re delicious and light and not your regular holiday cookie – chances are most people don’t know about them, which is a nice touch. And don’t be turned off at having to use a pastry bag. I used to think of myself unskilled in this area, but after I bought this little thing last year I gave it a go and was surprised just how easy it was! 🙂
175g butter (at room temperature)
100g powdered sugar
1 egg yolk
250g gluten-free flour (I used one third Schaer Farine, one third Harina de Reposteria from AdPan and one third Dove’s Farm gluten-free plain white flour mix)
2 tsp grated lemon peel
2 tsp anise (ground)
powdered sugar (for decorative purposes)
Place the butter and the powdered sugar in a bowl and whisk until creamy with a handheld mixer. Add the egg. If you haven’t done so, grind the anise seeds until somewhat fine. I did this with a new gadget that I bought for Mephisto. Add the ground anise to the batter together with the flour and the lemon peel and continue whisking until the batter is smooth and even.Fill a pastry bag with the batter and form the anise clouds like in the picture using a mid-sized star-formed spout while leaving sufficient space between each cookie until the baking tin is filled. I suggest cooling the batter in your fridge between lining different baking tins if there is a delay between doing so. Bake your anise clouds between eight to ten minutes (until they start browning at the edges) and remove from oven. Allow baking tin to cool off entirely (I place them on my terrace) before removing anise clouds. If you only have one baking tin, ensure you always let the baking tin cool off in its entirety before placing another batch of cookies on it Otherwise the butter inside the batter will melt and your cookies will flatten and deform before they are even in the oven. They’ll still taste good, but they’ll look a bit battered and they could be more fragile, too.
Once the anise clouds have cooled off, line them all up on a single baking tine and sprinkle with powdered sugar and then keep in a tin until they are ready to be eaten.