Saturday, August 1, 2015

Anna Sultana's Anise Cookies, Maltese Style

About seven months ago I posted the recipe for Ma’s Christmas Cookies.
I’m very pleased to see how popular that post has become.
I know those cookies are a nice light dessert.
But, wow… almost 1700 hits!!
That’s a lot of cookies!!

It’s time for another of Ma’s cookie recipes.
Anise cookies are always good.

Anise and anisette were staple items when I was growing up.
A bottle of anisette was always kept in the house, right next to the wine.
Some of my Sicilian relatives added anisette to their coffee.
Ma made sure she always had both wine and anisette on hand.
A bit of booze always helped when the family gathered.

Anise has a licorice flavour and is often good for whatever ails you.
At the end of feasts the Ancient Romans served cakes with aniseed as a digestive.
They knew what they were doing.
Anise is also taken as a digestive after meals in India.
It has also been used to treat menstrual cramps and colic.

A bit of trivia…
The Biblical anise mentioned in some translations of Matthew 23 is actually dill. 


Ma always used anise for these cookies.
If you don’t have anise, you can use lemon, orange or any flavour you want.
When making the icing use a liquor, juice or water instead of the anisette.
They won’t be the same, but they’ll still be good.

If you prefer you can shape the cookies in this way:
Cut a small piece and, by hand, roll it into a thin, long strip about 1/4 inch thick.
Cut the strip into sections about 1 inch long.
Connect the two ends by pressing them together with your fingers to form a circle.

Or you can roll it in your hands to form a log and then twirl it into shape. 

                              Anise Cookies

Makes about 6 dozen cookies


Grease 4 large cookie sheets

In a medium bowl sift together
4 Cups flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl place
1 Cup sugar
1 Cup butter
Mix at medium speed until light and fluffy.
Beat in, one at a time
6 eggs
1 teaspoon anise flavour
Gradually add
the flour / baking powder mixture.
Mix at a low speed until the dough is firm. 
Knead and if necessary add flour to keep the dough from sticking to your hands.
Pinch off about a tablespoonful of dough.
Roll it into a rope and coil it into a circle on a cookie sheet. 
Repeat with the remaining dough, placing them 1 inch apart on the cookie sheets.

Preheat oven to 350º F
Bake cookies 15 minutes until lightly golden.
Transfer to wire racks and cool completely.


Combine in a medium bowl
1 1/2 Cups sifted confectioner’s sugar
2 Tablespoons anisette
Stir, adding more anisette as needed, until creamy.

Place wax paper under the wire racks to collect the dripping icing.
Dip the cookies into the icing and place them on the wire rack.
Repeat the process for the remaining cookies.
Sprinkle over the cookies
rainbow coloured sprinkles

Here are some more anise recipes:

Anise Speculaas, German Christmas Cookie

Mrs. Kekelia's Anise Springerle, German Christmas Cookie

Anna Sultana's Biskuttini tar-Rahal #2 (Village biscuits / Maltese Style Cookies)

Anna Sultana's Qaghaq ta' l-Ghasel (Honey or treacle rings, Maltese Style)

Anna Sultana's Qaghaq tal-ghasel #2 (Treacle Rings, Maltese Style)

Anna Sultana's Imqaret (Deep-fried Date Slices, Maltese Style)


  1. Margaret, these cookies sound delightful! Reminded me of an old friend who lived and traveled in Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, etc years ago. She was one who always tried to eat and drink everything offered in order to be polite. But one thing she could not do was drink anisette or ouzo. So one time when a small glass of it was handed to her, and there seemed no way out, when everyone's attention was focused on someone else, she casually slipped the back of one shoe down and poured the drink into her shoe!

  2. Hi, Jean!
    I love your story about your friend. Ah, the joys and pitfalls of travel and new recipes! Sometimes you just have to do what you just have to do. Hope that was the only problem she had on that trip.
    If you make these for your friend a bit of lemon extract is nice, too.
    Stay safe and well. All the best in 2021!


All comments are moderated. Spam will not be posted.