During the holiday season, I always plan a baking project that will double as a simple gift option. Homemade cookies are sure to brighten anyone's day and these Fennel & Pistachio Cookies are a superb nontraditional option. The ingredients in these cookies might cost a bit more than your standard chocolate chip, but I'm sure you will agree that the extra few dollars is absolutely worth it when you taste them.
I'm often wary of desserts that call for citrus, but the lemon zest in this recipe is a perfect complement to the pistachio, fennel and almond flavors. I've included instructions for a very simple packaging option in this post.
Fennel & Pistachio Cookies
Adapted from the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board
(The only change I made to this recipe was to increase the fennel seeds slightly.)
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons almond extract (or amaretto)
1 tablespoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pistachio nuts, chopped, plus extra for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and mix well. Add egg and beat well. Add almond extract, lemon zest, and fennel seeds and mix to combine.
In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to the butter mixture and beat well. Stir in pistachio nuts (dough will be stiff).
Shape dough into one inch balls and place two inches apart on baking sheets lined with a silcone mat or parchment. Flatten balls slightly and add additional pistachios. Bake for 10 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool slightly on baking sheets and then transfer to wire racks to cool completely. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to one week.
To package the cookies you will need scissors, cellophane bags, embroidery thread in the color of your choice and green cloth-wrapped floral wire. You should be able to find all of these items are your local craft store.
I chose to use a pale yellow embroidery thread that was reminiscent of fennel blossoms. Simply hook the floral wire over at one end and wrap the thread around two fingers several times. Snip from the rest of the thread and place the bundle under the hooked wire. Wrap the hooked wire around the bundle tightly to secure it and ensure that the thread sticks up rather than out. Then, cut open the thread loops and trim the floral wire stem to your desired length.
Place your cookies in the cellophane bags and close with fennel blossom flowers. Keep your cookies in an airtight container until you are ready to give them away to ensure the best flavor. The recipe makes three dozen cookies and I was able to bake and package six gifts of half a dozen cookies in just over one hour.
*Full disclosure: I was asked to participate in this holiday baking event by the Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board. I selected and modified this recipe, and created my own packaging. I received compensation for my participation.