bitter stars

On a warm summer day about five years ago, I decided to make a batch of iced chai tea. I took a trip to the Asian market and bought a large hunk of ginger root along with several bags each of star anise seeds, black peppercorns, Assam and Darjeeling teas, cinnamon sticks, and cardamom pods. The spices filled the backseat of my car with memories of my first Indian meal: navratan korma, rosewater scented paneer, and cup after cup of milky chai tea.

Star-shaped, the dark brown pod has a tiny seed in each of its star-shaped points. Bitter in flavor, it comes from a small evergreen tree native to China and is part of the magnolia family.

Since my first batch of homemade chai, I’ve used star anise as an accented flavor in vegetable biryani, but never as a primary flavor in baking. So, it came as a surprise to me when I decided to make star anise cookies filled with orange scented chocolate ganache for July’s Daring Bakers’ challenge, especially since I find even anise too bitter for my taste.

The July Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network.

One bite and the bitter star tastes bright inside the pillow-like cookie. Rich chocolate melts into the star anise for a round finish. The cookies are light enough to pair with a tall glass of iced chai tea on a hot summer day.

Star Anise Sandwich Cookies
(printable recipe)

Yield about 1 1/2 dozen filled sandwich cookies
1 1/2 cups white spelt flour
1/2 cup oat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 sea salt
6 tablespoons coconut oil
1/2 cup agave nectar (amber)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon ginger powder
4 star anise crushed (= 2 teaspoons star anise powder)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or brush with a thin coat of coconut oil.

Whisk dry ingredients together; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients together and add to dry. Mix well until a smooth ball of dough forms. Roll dough out very thin (up to 1/8 inch) between two sheets of flour dusted waxed paper.

Dust small cookie cutters or a juice glass with flour (up to 3-inch round). Cut cookies and transfer to a cookie sheet. Bake until cookie edges and bottoms turn golden brown, about 7 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack.

Prepare chocolate ganache filling.

Chocolate ganache filling
adapted from Gale Gand’s Milan Cookie Filling

4 ounces soy milk (add up to 2 more tablespoons soy milk, if ganache is too thick)
4 ounces unsweetened dark chocolate (chopped)
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons raw sugar
zest of one orange

Mix chopped chocolate, sugar, and orange zest together in a medium heat proof bowl; set aside.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, scald soy milk.

Pour soy milk over chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth; set aside to allow chocolate filling to thicken and cool.

Spread a thin layer of chocolate ganache on the flat side of a cookie and place the flat side of another cookie on top to make one sandwich cookie. Repeat until all cookies are filled.

(The cookie recipe is inspired by Meredith McCarthy’s Vanilla Cookies in Sweet and Natural)


  1. Lisa Michelle says

    Star Anise Milans is so unique and sounds wonderful, not to mention, they turned out beautiful aesthetically! Fantastic job as always!!

  2. kristenly says

    your milan cookies turned out fabulous! and you described them so well that i could almost taste them. good job!

  3. Megan@Feasting on Art says

    Adding star inaice to your milanos is so clever! I bet they tasted fantastic, they look wonderful. Great job with the challenge!

  4. Angela says

    Lovely cookies! I like star anise in small amounts only, but I think the flavor sounds great in these cookies.

  5. Eat4Fun says

    Star anise and an iced chai sounds like a delicious and refreshing, with a hint of decadence! Wonderful job!

  6. Rosa's Yummy Yums says

    Very well done! Those cookies look beautiful and so delicious! Great flavors!



  7. Sue Sparks says

    Your cookies look so beautiful, sound exotic, and I'm sure, taste divine! Great job on the challenge!

  8. ♥Deeba @Passionate About Baking♥ says

    How wonderful!! You are very creative indeed! Star anise in Milanos must have taken them to a new high! I only got as far as the Mallows!

  9. Elissa says

    Anise – so unusual and exotic sounding in a milano cookie. Bitterness and all, I think these would be great with tea. They look lovely.

  10. singinghorse says

    Your star anise sandwich cookie recipe is really up my alley. Thanks for sharing it! Your milanos look really delish and yummy. Congrats!

  11. Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella says

    What a fantastic flavour combo here! I never thought to mix something as aromatic as star anise with chocolate but I bet it works beautifully!

  12. nikki says

    Thanks everyone for your sweet comments.

    Anonymous – I crushed the whole star anise pod with the seeds in this recipe. If you prefer, you can also use just the seeds or the pod respectively.

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