This is a cookie that is slightly different, depending how you look at it. I was looking through my cookie magazines, and there was one that caught my eye that was just a touch different. It used fennel in it. At first I discarded the notion, but then I came back to it. We've become very fond of fennel, using it in everything, how would it be in a cookie? Then I thought about gingersnaps, and pfefferneuse, and peanut butter cookies, and thought about all the savory ingredients I already use in cookies, how could fennel be bad?
I adapted the recipe quite a bit though. It called for lemon, which I didn't have, but I did have an orange. And I thought orange and fennel would be a brilliant combination of flavors. It also called for crushed fennel seeds, but it struck me that toasting the seeds first would add something great, so I did that as well. I crushed my fennel with a mortar and pestle, but if you don't have one, just put your seeds in a plastic bag and crush with a rolling pin. What? You don't have fennel seeds? You should! They are a pantry staple for me- I buy them in bulk at Penzey's, you should have fennel seeds on hand at all times!
Anyway, back to the cookies. The recipe also suggested a curd filling, like a thumbprint, but I decided that a curd filling would completely overwhelm the delicate flavor of the fennel. Instead, I opted for a very simple drizzle, combining powdered sugar, milk, and a lone drop of orange oil. The result is a rather stellar cookie. The orange flavor is bright and vibrant, and the fennel seed adds a prominent flavor without overwhelming. They are a delicious cookie! Which, in all honesty, kind of surprised me. These are slightly on the savory side, meaning they aren't as sweet as a traditional cookie. I think they would go excellently with tea or even with some bright crisp wine- Riesling perhaps? These Orange-Fennel Cookies surpassed my expectations, and I recommend them wholeheartedly.
2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, toasted and crushed
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 drop orange oil
2 teaspoons milk
Remove the zest from the orange using a zester. Measure 2 teaspoons of orange peel. Juice the orange and measure 2 tablespoons of juice.
In a medium bowl, beat the butter with the sugar until well combined. Add the orange juice, zest, eggs, vanilla, and the fennel seeds. Stir in the flour. Wrap the dough well in plastic and refrigerate for several hours, or until easy to handle.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Shape the dough into 3/4 inch balls. Roll the balls in the turbinado sugar to coat and place on an ungreased baking sheet 1 inch apart. Press down on them slightly with a glass to flatten a bit. Bake in a preheated oven for 11 to 12 minutes, or until the bottoms are lightly browned. Transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool.
Combine the simple glaze ingredients, adding more milk if necessary to get a good consistency. Lightly drizzle the cookies with the glaze and allow to set completely.
To store, layer in an airtight container and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. Cookies can also be frozen for up to 3 months.