During the holidays when I was fact checking for my post about Grandma Poss' sugar cookies, I talked at length with my mom about our family dessert recipes, many German influenced. While I was on the phone, Mom opened up her personal cookbook (a well-worn maroon three-ring binder filled with stained pages recording many family treasures), and read off the directions for springerle, pfefferneusse and anise schnitte. No need for me to write fast and furious as Mom spoke; the directions were rather sparse. That's typical of old family recipes where knowledge was often gained first-hand in the kitchen from one generation to the next. From the minimalist directions contained in Mom's notebook, I summoned forth Great Grandma Louise Marie Knopf Kisker's anise schnitte.
Schnitte means slice in German. Reminiscent of biscotti but lighter and more delicate, anise schnitte or toasted anise cakes are fabulous dunked in coffee, tea or milk. As recorded in Mom's cookbook, here are the directions for her maternal grandmother's recipe:
2 c sugar
8 eggs [No doubt, straight from the hen coop behind the house.]
Beat sugar and eggs for 30 minutes. [This was by hand!]
2 c flour
Anise seed to taste
Add flour and anise seed. Bake as at 350 degrees.
That's it. You're supposed to know how to fill in the blanks, no need to write it all down.
I laughed with my mother about beating the sugar and eggs manually for a half-hour! Surely, Grandma Kisker used a hand beater, I remarked. Mom said, no, I think she hand beat with a whisk. Now there's some exercise to build upper body strength!
"Wow, can you imagine what she would do with a Kitchen Aid mixer?" I asked.
"Probably nothing," said Mom, laughing. "This was a woman who refused to have her wood-burning kitchen stove removed when she got an electric oven. And that wood-burning stove sat in the kitchen until the day she died."
So I'm guessing Great Grandma Kisker's anise schnitte were baked using a wood-burning stove.
Augmenting the original recipe partly from memory of my mom's cookies and partly from experience, here's my more detailed version of anise schnitte.
Yield: 24 slicesPreparation Time: About 15 minutes for preparation; 45 minutes for baking and 1.5 hours for cooling. Total 2.5 hours.
2 c sugar
8 eggs [Alas, from the grocery store, no chicken coop in my backyard and the farmer's market is closed for the season.]
2 c flour
2 t anise seed
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (375 degrees F if at 5,000 feet or higher in altitude). Line bottom of two bread pans (4x8" or 4x9") with wax paper. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar and eggs until fluffy and light in color: about 10 minutes. At the start, the mixture looks very yellow.
When ready to stop mixing, the mixture will look creamy and thick.
Gently mix in flour and anise seed by hand.
Fold mixture into bread pans.
Bake for 25 minutes until golden brown and center springs back to touch.
Let cool 10 minutes, then run sharp knife around edges. Let cool in pans 15 minutes more. Invert onto cake rack; release cakes from pans. Gently remove wax paper from cakes and let cool at least one hour more. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Spray 12x15" cookie sheet with cooking spray or lightly oil. Using a bread or cake knife, cut cakes into 1/2" to 3/4" slices, approximately 12 slices per cake. Place slices on cookie sheet.
Bake for three to four minutes, turn and bake second side for three to four minutes. Do not over-bake; the bottoms side browns more quickly than the top so looks can be deceiving. Remove from oven, let cool on cake rack.
Stored in a tight container, anise schnitte will keep for a couple weeks. Mom remembers these cookies as being baked by her mom and grandmother during the Christmas season. Several generations removed from that tradition, I find them so enticing that I may be making anise schnitte throughout my cooking baking season (fall through spring).
Per-cookie Nutritional Profile:
Fat, 2 g
Saturated Fat, .5 g
Cholesterol, 70 mg
Carbs, 25 g
Dietary Fiber, 0 g
Protein, 2 g
Sodium, 50 mg
Vitamin A, 2% Daily Value
Vitamin C, 0% Daily Value
Calcium, 2% Daily Value
Iron, 4% Daily Value