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If you’ve been reading this blog for a few years, you’re probably aware of our holiday baking tradition. It always takes place in Mom’s kitchen, all of us doing various levels of helping decorate (sometimes ahem, only doing quality control) and bake the various cookie types. This has also included some rather incriminating photos of me…

With permission, I shared two of those recipes in the last couple of years — my Granny’s favorite, kolaches, and my own personal favorite, hard-boiled egg cookies.*

*The name isn’t the most appealing, but they are delicious. If you don’t want to try them, that’s just more for me!

But this year, as my sister Em and I were rolling out the dough, my mom started talking about one of her favorites: anise cookies. She had made a batch of dough and intended on baking them along with the rest of the cookies we were doing. And it reminded me of yet another funny holiday story that I haven’t shared with you guys yet.

If you’ve never heard of anise cookies, they contain an oil that tastes like black licorice, making them the absolute worst possible cookie flavor of all time. Not to mention, their name always makes me have to pronounce them a second time with friends (“No. anissss, with an ‘i’.” Yes, I know what that sounds like. And yes, they do at least figuratively taste like shit.”)

Growing up, I always hated them. Why did someone invent a cookie that tastes like bad candy? Merry friggin’ Christmas, let’s leave Santa a “treat” that would make even the jolliest want to stomp on our presents. There’s just one little problem…

If we use cookie cutters, they look almost exactly identical to my favorite cookies. They bake and puff almost the same. And for years, as kids, we decorated every cookie that came out of the oven with the same icing and sprinkles.

You can see where this is going. Mom would bake the various cookies in small batches and all at once, and we would go apeshit with covering them all in sugar. So, naturally, I would smell that all-too-familiar smell of my my favorite cookies baking in the oven, grab one that’s sitting on the rack cooling, take a BIG bite, and then…

Ewwwww. The cookie would immediately come tumbling out of my mouth in a fury of crumbs and a WTH?!? look on my face. And to make Mom laugh even harder, she never actually meant to prank me; I would just be unlucky sometimes. You would think I could at least smell the anise ones to distinguish them if they looked too similar to know by sight, but with a kitchen full of cookie smell, it was still too confusing for my weak nose.

I’m not proud of the learning curve on this one. It took us years before I stopped gambling with my 50/50 odds of getting the right cookie. I did stop taking such big bites, though.

I find it pretty hilarious that I would forget to prevent this issue so easily by the next time Christmas came around again. Eventually, our solution was to bake a whole bunch of mine and not ice them (I actually hate icing, so it worked out great) and would leave the anise cookies in a simple round shape (sans cookie cutter). They still look a little confusing when they’re all in the same cookie tin, but it’s now accidental-prank-free.

Do you have any funny cookie memories? I hope you’re all having a wonderful holiday!

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  1. I LOVE anise cookies?? Would your Mom be willing to share her recipe?? All the cookies look delicious!!

    1. Any recipe I share are from the family, so I’ll have to ask approval before I can post them on here, but I will ask and post if so!

  2. Too funny! Go Mom for a successful unintentional prank! They look very similar to the Italian anise cookie where one batch makes about 12 dozen. Since I am not fond (coughchokegag) of anise, I flavor with lemon! My brother just uses vanilla. Great fillers for cookie trays that are gifts. I just got into making biscotti and YUM!

  3. I have to agree with you about the taste of anise. My dad liked black licorice and I thought it was awful. Liked your story.