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
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)