Anise or Viennese cumin? The secret ingredient of the Italian cuisine

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Anise or Viennese cumin (Pimpinella anisum) that is the question!

The characteristic smell of this fragrant plant from the Mediterranean, a spice that resembles cumin seeds but has a stronger smell and a sweet aromatic taste is well known in France, Italy, Greece and Spain. Even in antiquity, it was used by the Egyptians, and the Greeks such as Dioskurides and Pliny, and Charlemagne to mention its taste and healing power. (Anise contains essential oil, fatty oil, protein and sugar). In Russia, it is valued as a national spice. It can be used for red cabbage, carrots, pumpkins, beetroot dishes, for wild dishes, sauces, for sweets: fruit compotes, sweet rice pudding, puddings, but it is also used in the Mediterranean kitchen for breads, for salt cakes because they bring a special flavor to these dishes. It’s also popular with punches, syrups, liqueurs. 

Aniseed pretzels: Mix 150 gr butter, 200 gr sugar, 250 gr flour, a little lemon zest, 15 gr anise seeds, 2 whole eggs, and form from the massa small pretzels. Smear them with egg whites and fry over a slow fire sprinkled with powdered sugar.

Pizzelle and the anise

No Italian-American holiday is complete without crisp, buttery pizzelle. Rather than the typical anise flavor, you can make them a bit more neutral with a splash of good quality vanilla or not? (my Italian nanny, Mimmi must be turning over in her grave right now!) But of course you can still use the anise!


  • 3 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (149g) sugar
  • 3/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups (206g) flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 8 tablespoons (113g) butter, melted


  1. Beat the eggs, sugar, salt, and vanilla until well combined.
  2. Stir in the flour and baking powder, mixing until smooth.
  3. Add the melted butter, again mixing until smooth; the batter will be thick and soft.
  4. Heat your pizzelle iron. Grease it as directed in the manufacturer’s instructions. As the iron heats, the batter will stiffen.
  5. Cook the pizzelle according to the instructions that came with your iron. In general, they’ll take between 45 seconds and 2 1/2 minutes to brown.
  6. Remove the pizzelle from the iron, and cool on a rack. If desired, use a pair of scissors to trim any ragged edges.
  7. Dust cooled pizzelle with confectioners’ sugar, if desired.

Flavor to taste: classic pizzelle are often flavored with anise extract or anise seed. Butter-rum, lemon, or rum flavors are also delicious. Simply add extract to the batter to taste. Start with 1/4 teaspoon; amounts will vary a lot, depending on the strength of the extract you choose.

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