These cookies are the perfect way to bring a bit of the foraging world into your kitchen this holiday season. The festive flavors of spicebush pair with the slightly unconventional star-anise for a twist on the spiced cookies of winter. These tasty treats are light and pillow-soft right out of the oven, but still retain their pillowiness at room temperature for a few days, or even longer in the freezer, making them a great make-ahead munch. They have just enough sweetness to bring out the spices, but are relatively low-sugar for cookies.
I find spiceberries to be indispensable during Cookie Season, which peaks around December. They fit right in with the other warming spices of the season such as cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg. To put a spin on the classic spiced winter cookie concept, I started with Dorie Greenspan's Maple-Star Anise cookies and tweaked them until a delectable foraged treat was born. In my opinion, the toasted pecans really make the cookie since they give some body to the soft cookies and pair nicely with the spicebush berry and star anise.
For those of you who dislike the flavor of anise - do not fear! While these cookies might not convert you to Team Anise, they are still quite palatable for the anise-hater. I noticed a couple of the anti-anise crew sneaking back for a second or third cookie, just to 'make sure the cookies were adequately tasted'.
Spicebush and star anise team up for a pleasantly spiced, lightly sweet treat. They have just enough sweetness to bring out the spices, but are relatively low-sugar for cookies. Thanks to Corinne Fortune for helping taste-test and tweak the recipe! The cookies are inspired by `Maple Star Anise Cookies` from Dorie's Cookies by Dorie Greenspan.
Wet ground spicebush berry paste. To grind your own star anise powder, put a few stars in a coffee grinder or spice mill, then process until they form a fine powder. Ground star anise will keep in a covered container for about 3 months.
Ground star anise. My favorite way to make a wet ground spicebush berry paste is to start with whole frozen spicebush berries then process them in a coffee grinder or spice mill till they form a smooth paste. A mortar and pestle would work nicely as well. Once the paste has formed, just make sure that there aren’t any large chunks lurking amongst the paste. If you find one, you can mash it with a spoon, or just remove it from the paste.
Pecans. To ensure even toasting, toast the pecans before chopping them. Don’t be tempted to ‘chop’ the pecans in the spice grinder - I tried that in a desperate move to avoid cleaning more dishes and ended up with a sad pile of powdered nuts. Hand-chopping is the way to go.
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