Cookbook author and food blogger Blanche Shaheen

Recipe Corner: Sesame Anise Cookies Photo credits Blanche Shaheen


Sesame Anise Cookies from Feast in the Middle East

Blanche is an accomplished Arab American food blogger and author who reported on ABC’s “View from the Bay,” and has hosted the independent film show “Video I” for PBS for 10 years. In 2010, she began hosting her own cooking show, sharing many years of treasured Middle Eastern recipes preserved by her mother, grandmother, and family. “These are family recipes handed down from one generation to the next, recipes that many culinary schools today don’t know about – however, there were no written measurements,” Blanche says. That’s when she decided to document the recipes in an ongoing cookbook and food blog, and Feast in the Middle East was born. (See:

“When I’m nostalgic about my childhood, these Sesame Anise Cookies (Ka’ak bi Anson) come to mind. “I used to eat them with my grandparents, and listen to their stories about our family history. My family thinks the ground anise seed in the cookies can soothe the stomach, so my grandmother would give them to me when I had a stomach ache. The cookies are best served with hot coffee or tea…you can taste the licorice flavor of anise melting in your mouth with a hot beverage. Aside from any health benefits, these cookies remind me of the times I spent with my family when I was younger,” she adds.



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1 cup vegetable oil

1 cup sugar

3 large eggs

3 cups flour (or more, if dough is too sticky)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 tablespoons ground anise seeds*

1 teaspoon turmeric, optional (this ingredient is not included in the how-to-video but it’s a great addition to this recipe)

1/2 cup sesame seeds

1/4 cup heavy cream, optional (to add extra sheen on the cookies)



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, beat the 3 eggs using a hand mixer. Add vegetable oil and sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground anise seeds, and optional turmeric (if you want a yellow color).

Mix until you have a soft, pliable dough forms. The dough should not be sticky; add more flour in small increments if you need to so dough won’t stick. Shape 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-3/4 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 2 ends of the log together to form a ring, placing 1 end over the other and pressing down on the top piece to secure it.

For added sheen to the cookies, add the heavy cream to a bowl. Using a brush, brush cookies with heavy cream. Gently press each cookie into the sesame seeds, and place on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough, making about 15 cookies spaced about 1 inch apart on the sheet.

Adjust rack to the center of the oven and bake cookies until they are golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove cookies from oven and cool on a wire rack. Keep cookies in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Note from Blanche: “While traditional anise cookies use butter or ghee, I found avocado oil yields a more tender texture. Avocado oil might cost more than other seed oils, but cold pressed avocado oil is more of a 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 tablespoon of ground flax seeds along with 2 1/2 tablespoons of water. Whisk together before adding to the batter.”

*Anise seed is rich in iron, which is vital for the production of healthy blood cells in your body. It also contains a small amount of manganese, a key mineral that acts as an antioxidant and is necessary for metabolism and development. Other research indicates that anise seed is high in antioxidants, which can reduce inflammation and prevent disease-causing oxidative damage. (See:

For this recipe, go to:

For the how-to-video, go to:

Enjoy Blanche’s series on YouTube, on, and on Virgin America Airlines, where it has an estimated audience of 1 million people each month. She’s been featured on NBC’s “California Live,” BBC World News, KQED’s “Check Please” program, NPR radio, the Palo Alto Weekly, the Los Altos Crier, the Mountain View Voice, the San Jose Mercury News, and the Rumi Awards show she hosted for an international audience.

ORDER TODAY: Feast In The Middle East – A Personal Journey of Family and Cuisine by Blanche Araj Shaheen, go to:

For recipes featured on Blanche TV channel ( and more, this 200+ page hardback book is full of stunning photos, meticulous directions, and historical research on traditional recipes and family stories. Blanche shows how you can make your favorite Middle Eastern dishes at home — from stuffed grape leaves to stress-free 10 minute dinners, soups, salads, and grain dishes.





MY BLOG: https://feastinthemiddleeast.wordpres


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