Fennel got into my garden because of its dramatic appearance.
For those who don’t know, it looks just like dill weed, but much, much larger – about two and a half metres tall, with the stalks more than a centimetre thick.
Very prehistoric. It almost looks like there might be dinosaurs hiding in there.
When my little grove yielded more than a half pound of seeds, I went looking for uses.
I took the best parts of several interesting cookie recipes, and doubled the most fennel seed any of them called for.
After all, if you like fennel’s robust licorice flavour, you should celebrate it to the fullest.
The cookies were an instant hit, and the fennel grove is now a permanent fixture in the garden.
Have a happy Christmas! May your days all be merry and bright!
from Bob Groeneveld, retired Langley Advance editor
and weekly columnist
• 1/2 cup canola oil (or softened butter, for added decadence)
• 1 cup sugar
• 1 heaping tablespoon of crushed fennel seeds (I first crushed them with mortar and pestle, but now use an old coffee bean grinder)
• 1/4 tsp salt
• 2 eggs
• 1-3/4 cups all-purpose flour
• 3 tbsp yellow cornmeal
• 2 tsp baking powder
Give the sugar and oil (or butter) a serious beating in a large bowl. Mix in the crushed fennel seeds and salt. Add the eggs and beat until fully combined.
In a second, smaller bowl stir together the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder.
Thoroughly mix about 1/3 of the dry ingredients into the large bowl. Then mix in another 1/3, and then again with the final 1/3.
Squeeze and roll the dough into a log about 2-3 inches in diameter, depending on the size of cookies you want. (Tip: the dough won’t spread too much during baking, so the thickness of the log will be close to the diameter of your cookies.)
Wrap the log tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight (at least a couple of hours, or up to a whole day).
When you’re ready to bake, preheat the oven to 375 F.
Unwrap the cooled log and, with a sharp knife, slice into rounds about 1/8 to 1/4 inches thick.
Lay the rounds on ungreased or parchment-lined cookie sheets. Bake for 8-10 minutes.
Every oven is different, and thicker cookies will take a bit longer. Your cookies are done when the edges take on a darker golden hue.
Cool for a minute or two before removing cookies from sheet.
Continue cooling on a rack.
For an added touch, top with a bit of confectioner’s icing laced with Sambuca (or licorice extract if kept in reach of the children).
Add sprinkles for colour.
Final step: eat cooled, iced cookies, trying not to stuff more than two in your mouth at a time!