XVII Century Anise Seed Cookies

My son had an assignment in his English class which included writing an essay about a 17th century English poet – Andrew Marvell, presenting the essay dressed as closely as Marvell and making a dish from the same period. Of course my son decided to tell me that he needed the food the very evening before the project was due. My quick web search for the 17th century English recipes resulted in a quite interesting list of recipes from which I chose one for anise seed  cookies or biscuits.

Recipe presented in its original language:

To make Bisket.

Take the yolks of two dozen of egges, two handful of Anniseeds, a little yest, one pound of butter, one quart of creame, foure pound of fine wheat flowre, work all these together in a paste, and make it up in long rouls being something flat, then lay them upon papers, and set them into the Oven and bake them, (but not throughly) then let them stand a day or two, then cut them into slices, and rub them over with small beaten sugar, then lay them upon papers, and set them into the Oven, until they be hard.

Of course, I had to adjust it…. What would I do with the amount of cookies made with two dozen egg yolks? 😀 I used 1/4 of listed ingredients, instead of yeast I used a bit of baking powder and I also didn’t wait a day or two, but baked the cookies right away. I was amazed how smooth and silky the cookie dough was. The cookies turned out to be a delight, very tasty and just sweet enough. My son took them to school and said they were gone in less than five minutes. I hope he got an A! I am going to make them again!

Anise Cookies or Biscuits                   Printable recipe


  • 6 egg yolks
  • ¼ cup (50 g) sugar
  • ¼ lb (113 g) butter (room temperature)
  • 1 ½  tablespoon anise seeds
  • 1 cup (250 ml) heavy cream
  • 1 lb (453 g) flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • Sugar to coat the cookies


  1. In a bowl whisk softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Add on by one egg yolk mixing the whole time.
  2. Add anise seed and mix thoroughly.
  3. Now add cream and at the end flour combined with baking powder. The dough will be quite firm and smooth.
  4. Form the dough into two logs, each about 1.5 inches (4 cm) in diameter. Flatten each log a bit as to form a rectangular shape.
  5. Wrap the logs into plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge at least an hour.
  6. Prepare a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 365 F (185 C).
  7. Cut the logs into 3/8 inch (1 cm) thick cookies. Dip each cookie in sugar and place on the baking sheet.
  8. Bake them about 12-14 minutes, let them cool down and enjoy with some tea, hot chocolate or milk.


19 thoughts on “XVII Century Anise Seed Cookies

  1. How fun! I think that recipe is remarkably precise for such an old recipe, but 12 yolks is pretty insane, unless you are crazy for meringue.

    1. Yes, it was a lot of fun making them. Actually it’s 24 yolks… sounds crazy. It might have been a recipe from a bakery or a large family with a dozen kids. 🙂

    1. Thanks Donna! 🙂 Oh, trust me my son is known to pull a fast one on me quite often! 😉 Yes, these were a lot of fun to make. Even though I adapted the recipe, everything came together perfectly.

  2. 24 yolks!! I wonder how many people that will feed! The cookies look really good, I will have to go and hunt for some anise seeds now! 😉

    1. I just went with 6 yolks and had two big cookie sheets full. Make them, you won’t regret it. They were really yummy, not too sweet, perfect with tea or coffee.

  3. Sometimes school projects are just dreadful.. this one would be just the ticket for bakers like us, eh?? Your son must have been thrilled to have you working with him and so proud to present these.. and you’ve converted the recipe for us to try!! Thank you! xoxo

    1. Hi Smidge,
      This school project was really fun! Even though I didn’t have enough time, cookies turned out perfectly. Amazingly, this recipe was very accurate and I didn’t need to add, subtract or improvise…
      Wishing you a wonderful week! ❤

    1. Thank you Korena! We had a lof of fun making these and especially eating them! 🙂 Yes, that list of recipes is quite interesting and I love the language and the way they are written.

  4. I remember my son had to make some bread for a class at school (I made it) from a very old recipe of soda bread. None of the kids ate it:( I guess I don’t blame them. This looks much better!

    1. Thanks Mary Ann! It was a good thing that he could really make anything from that period. We decided to go with the cookies, which turned out really nice! 🙂

    1. Thanks! I was also amazed how well they came out considering the recipe… Everyone in my family loved them, so I will make them again.

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