The Danes make some very good licorice. I set out to honor this tradition but ran into some hurdles. Licorice is a tough ingredient to work with. I had three options to build a cookie: licorice root, licorice extract or licorice candy. I tried some licorice root tea, a common homeopathic remedy, but it hardly held any of the licorice taste I needed. I couldn’t find licorice extract in three of the closest grocery stories so that was out. Licorice candy was my last hope.
Licorice candy is sticky. I knew that if I chopped it up into small pieces and mixed it into cookie dough, it would not melt leaving sticky chunks that would be an enemy to anyone’s teeth. I thought the candy would melt in a small sauce pan over low heat on the stovetop. The plan was to melt the licorice to yield about 1/4 cup and mix that with 1/4 cup molasses to make a licorice-molasses spice cookie. The licorice candy I had purchased was black, two inches in length and about 1/2 inch in diameter. I cut it up into smaller pieces thinking it would melt faster. The results were disastrous. The licorice pieces didn’t melt at all–they began to smoke and burn, leaving black spots on the bottom of my stainless steel saucier.
So how in the world could I make licorice cookies without licorice? I knew that although aniseed was not technically related to licorice, it offered a similar, albeit more delicate, flavor. So, I combined anise, anise extract and molasses to approximate licorice. Molasses added a burnt, earthy quality to the cookie which deepened the aniseed flavor and created a taste that could easily pass for licorice.
These cookies are quick to prepare and truly an unusual twist on the standard molasses drop cookie. They would make great holiday or wintertime treats!
1/3 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/2 cup for rolling
2 1/4 cups AP flour
1.5 tsp ground cinnamon
1.5 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 T anise
1/4 tsp salt
12 T unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 tsp anise extract
1/2 cup molasses
For the cookies…
1) Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
2) Spread 1/2 cup granulated sugar on a plate. In a medium bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, ginger, anise, and salt together. Using an electric mixer beat butter, brown sugar and 1/3 cup granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-6 minutes. Beat in egg yolk and anise extract until combined, about 3o seconds. Beat in molasses until incorporated, an additional 30 seconds. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until combined, again 30 seconds.
3) Shape dough into 2 T balls, then roll in sugar to coat. Space balls 2 inches apart on cookie sheets.
4) Bake cookies 10-12 minutes, rotating the cookie sheet halfway through. The cookies are done when they are slightly set around the edges but centers are still puffy. Let cookies cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes and then transfer to a wire rack.
Store cookies in an airtight container between pieces of waxed paper. It cookies get dry, try putting a slice or two of apple in with the cookies. Makes around two dozen cookies.