The Cookie that Soothes the Tummy- Ka’ak Bi Yansoon--Anise Sesame Cookies
By: Blanche Shaheen/Arab America Contributing Writer
This time of year can be festive and stressful simultaneously, where long lines, traffic, and aggressive shopping cart pushers can intermix with holiday parties, sparkling lights, and jolly Santas. One way to bring sanity to your day amidst this melee is by baking goodies to give to the ones you love in the sanctuary of your kitchen. The methodical acts of measuring, stirring, sifting, baking, and all of the scents that accompany these activities is comforting, and a relaxing escape from the daily grind. If you can dig up a nostalgic recipe that has been in the family for years, all the better to reminisce about your childhood. One cookie that conjures up sweet memories of my childhood would have to be the Arabic cookie called Ka’ak be Yansoon, or Anise Sesame Cookies.
Ka’ak bi yansoon is a far cry from your average chocolate chip cookie. Crumbly, nutty, and tender to the bite, these cookies pair perfectly with strong coffee or tea. You can literally feel the licorice flavor of anise melting in your mouth with a hot beverage. I used to eat these cookies while hanging out with my grandparents or great aunties, listening to their stories. My family believed the ground anise seed in these cookies could soothe the stomach, so my grandmother would give me these cookies when I had a stomach ache. Being occasionally mischievous, I would fake a stomach ache to get these cookies as a treat. However, there is an actual scientific fact to back up the beneficial properties of anise, as this herb is used for a plethora of medicinal applications. The seed and oil of the anise seeds are used by apothecaries to make medicine to soothe an upset stomach, intestinal gas, runny nose, insomnia, constipation, and nausea.
While traditional anise cookies use butter or ghee, I found that avocado oil yields a more tender texture. Avocado oil might cost more than other seed oils, but cold-pressed avocado oil is more of whole food. Sunflower, canola, and corn oils tend to be highly processed, loaded with hexane and other chemicals. While this recipe uses eggs, if you are allergic to eggs you can use a flax “egg” consisting of 1 tbsp of ground flax seeds along with 2 ½ tbsp of water. Whisk together before adding to the batter.
Aside from any health benefits, these cookies simply remind me of quality time with family. When I crave the old days of conversing with my grandparents’ generation, I make these cookies to force myself to slow down and remember those special times. Perhaps conversation cookies is a more apt title for these comforting biscuits.
To see the easy technique of how to make these cookies, click on the video below:
Recipe for Ka’ak Bi Yansoon–Anise Sesame Cookies
- 1 cup of sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup avocado oil (or any nonprocessed, cold-pressed vegetable oil)
- ½ tsp baking soda
- 2 tbsp ground anise seeds
- 2 ½ to 3 cups flour (add more flour as you go if the dough is too sticky)
- ½ cup sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, beat the three eggs using a hand mixer. Add the vegetable oil and sugar and beat until light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes. Mix until a soft, pliable dough forms. The dough should not be sticky, so add more flour in small increments if you need to so the dough won’t stick. Shape the dough with your hands, using about 2 tablespoons of dough per cookie. Pull off a ball of dough and roll it into about a 5- by ¾ -inch log under the palm of your hand on your work surface. If you feel air pockets on the dough, knead it a bit and roll it again. Bring the two ends of the log together to form a ring, placing one end over the other and pressing down on the top piece to secure it. In another small bowl, place the cream. Brush the cookies with the cream. Then gently press each cookie into the sesame seeds, and lay onto the baking sheet. Repeat this with the remaining dough, making about 20 cookies spaced about an inch apart on the sheet. Adjust the rack to the center of the oven and bake the cookies until they are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool the cookies completely on a wire rack. Keep the cookies in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
Blanche Shaheen is a journalist, host of the YouTube cooking show called Feast in the Middle East and a cookbook author. You can now purchase her brand new cookbook: “Feast in the Middle East, A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine” by clicking HERE:https://secure.mybookorders.com/Orderpage/2189
To check out her cooking video tutorials and other recipes follow Blanche on:
Her blog at https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpress.com/
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