Friday, May 10, 2013

Bacchic, anisic-tasting cookies: Mediterranean Fennel biscuits

You may find similar recipes under “Bacchus Biscuits” because the followers of Bacchus carried a stalk of wild fennel with them; an image rather suggestive, if you think about the symbolism of the god. Irrespective of sexual connotations fennel is very popular around the Meditternanean where anisic flavours (such as the aroma present in aperitifs such as pastis, tsipouro and ouzo) are very familiar and beloved since infancy; even bread is often peppered with anise, paired with black olives and a slice of good cheese for a light supper. These fennel biscuits are crunchy, not soft (though they're never supposed to be gritty), a popular notion with the Greeks, maybe because the arid climate allows for a coordination with the local cuisine; you would never associate mulch stuff with Mare Nostrum. In addition there's a lightly sweet aspect to fennel which is at the same time quite refreshing, further enhanced by the richness of butter and the finishing of salt. 

Whatever the secret is Fennel biscuits make for a perfect accompaniment to strong flavorful coffee (a good Greek coffee made in the traditional copper "briki" or a dark roast espresso) in the morning or in the afternoon, preferably after a brief siesta, when life seems anew full of promise and earthy pleasures. Ah...

Recipe for 25 cookies

  • 1/2 cup soft butter (salted)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (ground)
  • 1 whole egg
  • 1 3/4 cups plain flour
  • 3 tablespoons cornmeal
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl. Add the fennel seeds and the egg and beat. In another bowl, mix the flour, with cornmeal and baking powder, and whisk.

2. Stirring all the time, start adding the flour mix to the butter mix, slowly . When smooth and starting to come off the edges of the bowl, shape the dough into a log with floured hands, cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

3. The next day, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice off the log into small cylinders of the log, roll them into a ball, then press them lightly with a glass to flatten again; you can also cut them with coupe-pâte. Arrange the slices on a bake-sheet in your baking pan. 

4. Bake until they begin to color on the edges, about 10-12 minutes (according to how thin the "slices" you cut were). Remove and cool on a rack. They can keep in a biscuit tin for up to a month. For further effect you can sprinkle aniseed when serving. 

 Song is "Σταλιά σταλιά" (i.e. drop by drop [and insatiably I drink your kisses]), written by Georgios Zabetas and sung by Marinella.

Etsy photo


  1. oooohhhh. yum. i will be all over these just as soon as i go to the market for fennel. teatime just got more interesting...thanks!

  2. Oh. My. God. Making these THIS WEEKEND.

  3. Anonymous16:03

    Those look lovely! Thank you for sharing the recipe. :) ~~Lilybelle

  4. Okay, I just made these, and I am eating them as fast as they come off the cookie sheet. YUM! I cheated - I rolled the dough into a log and then just stuck it in the freezer for about an hour. Took it out, sliced the cookies into about 1/4" rounds, pressed one side into some loose whole fennel seeds and baked them for 10 - 12 minutes. Absolutely delicious! The fennel flavor is very subtle. Thanks so much for this recipe.

  5. Miss Heliotrope01:56

    Sound fab - I do love fennel - I shall definately make these soonish.

    If the world seems like that to you after a brief siesta, you must wake up amazingly well: I tend to be homicidal.

  6. Lauren21:25

    Thanks for the recipe. I love both fennel seeds and raw fennel (or cooked in soup).

  7. Thanks everyone for the comments.

    SS, glad they turned out well!! Your method sounds actually very clever! (I do that when making Palmiers, as it wouldn't do any other way).

    MH, well, that is if they let me actually wake up by myself... ;-)

    Εnjoy :-)


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