Anise Pierniki (Polish Christmas Cookies)

Anise Pierniki (Polish Christmas Cookies)

These tender Polish Pierniki Christmas Cookies are a holiday favorite. The licorice-flavored cookies capture the holiday spirit with a generous topping of festive sprinkles.

I have talked a lot about family recipes, locally significant recipes and how food generally creates a feeling of community, and family. I have talked about these things so much it occurred to me it might be time to have a tagline that reflects that, and an updated about page!

Perhaps one of the reasons I am so drawn to the topic of food as history is because we lost many of our traditional polish recipes through the years.  I will not go into our family history AGAIN, but my great grandmother came from Poland with her husband and oldest son, they settled in East Rochester on Pine Street. My Grandmother fell in love with a French Canadain working on the rail cars and married young. My grandparents wanted nothing more than to be American, and that meant shaking off a lot of the Old World traditions and recipes. 

Of course, a few special recipes have stood the test of time.  But some just never got passed down, and I occasionally find myself looking for a way to celebrate our polish heritage in small ways throughout the year, but especially around the holidays.  This year I really wanted to add a traditional Polish Christmas Cookie to my Cookie Tray, and I was thrilled to find this recipe for Anise Pierniki. 

Here’s the thing,  if you’re at a loss for the traditional foods of your cultural heritage, like I am, do a quick search online the resources are limitless! And make it happen in your own kitchen, it is never too late to start making new memories, traditions and reconnecting with your family, both past and present.

Tips for Making Cut-Out Christmas Cookies

After rolling the cookie dough it should chill in the refrigerator for a minimum of 1 hour before making the cookies. Place the cookie sheet with the stacked dough in the fridge.  This extra step of chilling the dough helps the cookies cut out cleanly and helps them their shape when they are being transferred to the baking sheet. As you cut out and bake the cookies any dough you are not currently using should be kept in the refrigerator. You really want the butter to set back up and have a firm dough to work with.  You can see below my cookie dough is very firm and the cookie will stand and hold its shape. 

All ovens run slightly different, and these variances become painfully obvious when you are trying out a new recipe,  but it seems especially so when you are cooking cut-outs! Set the timer for about half the recommended bake time, especially with new recipes. It is always a good idea to turn your cookies sheets halfway through baking time for more even cooking, and this quick check in half-way through also lets you monitor the progress of the baking, and fine-tune the baking time without running the risk of over-baking the cookies.

When baking the cookies DO NOT OVER BAKE!  Monitor the first batch closely. These cookies do not brown or turn golden.  The cookies are done baking and need to be removed from the oven when the edges of the cookies just barely begin to turn golden brown. 

Anise Pierniki (Polish Christmas Cookies)

Anise Pierniki (Polish Christmas Cookies)

Yield: 4 dozen cookies
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 7 minutes

These tender Polish Pierniki Christmas Cookies are a holiday favorite. The licorice-flavored cookies capture the holiday spirit with a generous topping of festive sprinkles.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons milk
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon anise extract or oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 6-8 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon anise extract or oil (optional)
  • Assorted sprinkles

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the anise, egg yolks, and milk, beating to combine. In a separate bowl, sift baking powder and salt into flour, then add to wet ingredients, mixing until incorporated. Dough will be thick and sticky.
  2. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour, or up to 1 day.
  3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350° degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
  4. Flour your workstation moderately, as well as your hands and rolling pin. Take half of the dough and dust it with flour, knead it into a ball, then roll it out to about ¼ inch thick, dusting the cookie dough with flour sparingly, but as needed to manage the dough.
  5. Cut with cookie cutters. Place cookies on prepared cookie sheets.
  6. Bake for 7-10 minutes, until edges are just barely golden
  7. Remove from oven and cool on pans for 3-4 minutes, then remove to cooling rack with a metal spatula.

Buttercream Frosting

  1. Combine ingredients in a small bowl and beat until a fluffy buttercream consistency is reached, adding milk or sugar as necessary to thicken or thin the frosting.
  2. Gently spread frosting on each cookie and decorate with sprinkles as desired.
  3. Allow the frosted cookies to set on a wire cooling rack, for the frosting to set before packaging and storing. 

Notes

Yields depend on thickness and size of cutter.

All ovens run slightly different. Set the timer for about half the recommended bake time, especially with new recipes. It is always a good idea to turn your cookies sheets halfway through baking time, and this quick check in half-way through also lets you monitor the progress of the baking, and fine-tune the baking time without running the risk of over-baking the cookies.

Recipe Adapted from:  The Crumbly Kitchen

I am a huge fan of black liqorice, so an anise cookie was a no brainer, and I am so happy to add a polish cookie similiar to what my great grandmother would have made to my Christmas Cookie Tray this year. These cookies are tender have exceptional liqorice flavor! 

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. This recipe is incredibly similar to a recipe passed down through my husband family! My mother on law changed the anise to vanilla and this past fall I swapped in maple extract and those were fabulous! Love your history and heritage along with food!!

  2. New to your site, as I was searching Polish cookies. I enjoyed reading your story and the cookies look fantastic, thanks!

  3. These cookies look delicious and I love traditions!

    1. Thank you, Karen!

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