Soft gluten free anisette cookies. Tender, old world Italian cookies with a simple glaze. Just like you remember!
These soft gluten free anisette cookies are absolutely adorable when they’re finished with a simple glaze and sprinkled lightly with nonpareils. And that’s very fortunate, because they just look so, well, boring without it.
So boring, in fact, that you might be tempted to ignore them on a cookie plate. And if you did that, you’d be missing out.
Even if you think you don’t really love the flavor of star anise, there’s something special about the way it mixes and mingles with the light sweetness of the cookie and the more intense sweetness of the glaze. And of course if you have memories of these cookies, they almost certainly involve that anise flavor.
If you’re not feeling it, or you’re concerned your guests may not, then just replace it with any other extract. Lemon or orange are popular extracts to use in place of anise here.
The secret to making these cookies the proper pillowy texture is not to overbake them. The moment you see any of the tops of the cookies beginning to brown, get those cookies out of the oven!
The glaze should be quite thick, although you must be able to stir it. Work quickly, but if the glaze seems to have thickened too much, you can always stir in another drop of milk or lukewarm water to return it to the proper consistency.
Dip the tops of the cookies in the glaze, twist gently to cover properly, allow the excess to drip off and then place the cookie down, glaze side up of course. Sprinkle with nonpareils and move on to the next. You’ll be picking up nonpareils from the counter for the next two weeks, but it’ll be worth it.
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (omit if your blend already contains it)
1/2 cup (72 g) cornstarch (or try arrowroot)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup (150 g) granulated sugar
8 tablespoons (112 g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3 eggs (150 g, weighed out of shell) at room temperature, beaten
2 teaspoons pure anise extract*
2 to 3 tablespoons milk (any kind), at room temperature
For the glaze 1 1/2 cups (173 g) confectioners’ sugar
1 teaspoon pure anise extract*
1 tablespoons milk (any kind), plus more by the 1/4 teaspoonful if necessary
Nonpareils, for decorating (Cake Mate & Betty Crocker brand nonpareils are gluten free in the U.S.)
*In place of anise extract, you can use an equal amount of anisette liqueur. Hiram Walker brand is gluten free. You can also, of course, replace the anise extract with any other sort of flavor extract, like lemon extract, for a completely different flavor.
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line rimmed baking sheets with unbleached parchment paper and set them aside.
Make the cookie dough. In a large bowl, place the flour, xanthan gum, cornstarch, baking powder, salt and sugar, and whisk to combine well. Create a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and add the butter, eggs, anise extract and 2 tablespoons milk, mixing to combine after each addition. The dough should be very thick but smooth and soft. Add more milk by the half-teaspoon as necessary to reach the proper consistency.
Shape and bake the cookies. Using a #50 ice cream scoop (about 1 1/4 tablespoons in volume) or two small spoons, divide the dough into portions, placing them about 1 inch apart from one another on the prepared baking sheets. Using damp hands, roll each piece of dough into a ball. Place in the center of the preheated oven and bake until just beginning to brown on the underside (about 11 minutes). Do not overbake. If you begin to see any color developing on the top of the cookies, remove them from the oven right away. Allow to cool on the baking sheets for about 10 minutes.
While the cookies are cooling, make the glaze. In a small bowl, place the confectioners’ sugar, anise extract and 1 tablespoon of milk. Mix well, until a thick paste forms. Add more milk by the 1/4-teaspoon, mixing to combine well, until the glaze falls off the spoon very, very slowly. It should be opaque white in color, and should be easy to stir. Add milk very slowly, as it is much easier to thin, than to thicken, the glaze. If you do thin the glaze too much, add more confectioners’ sugar a teaspoon at a time to thicken it.
Finish the cookies. Invert one cooled cookie into the glaze and twist gently to cover the top of the cookie evenly. Turn the cookie on its side and allow any excess glaze to drip off. Return to the baking sheet, glazed side up, and sprinkle immediately with nonpareils. The glaze will set quickly. Repeat with the remaining cookies, then allow them to set fully at room temperature.