Today's Spice is Anise Seeds
Most of you have probably already heard of and used anise seeds before, because they aren't all that uncommon. Still, it's not exactly a spice you use every day. They are little guys, maybe the size of sesame seeds, but they have a really strong flavor. They smell a little sweet, and I think they are related to licorice, which makes sense. I think they smell great, and I also really like the taste. Over the years, I think I have used anise seeds most often in recipes just like this - breads that are very mildly sweet - and they are really a wonderful addition.
Why yes, I did make a beautiful loaf of sweet Fig Focaccia with Orange Zest & Anise Seeds. (from Local Flavors, by Deborah Madison)
Why yes, this does sound very elegante'
Oh, and, yes dahling, this is a most delightful and amazing treat
Why yes, you simply must eat this with your pinky up, my dear
Recently I made a loaf of this amazing sweet focaccia for some nice friends, as a thank you gift. They loved it, and it was beautiful. So, what's the problem?
The Problem: That focaccia looked so damned good... and I really, really wanted to taste it... but you can't exactly give someone a thank-you loaf of bread with a big bite out of it. I kept trying to forget it, but the image of those beautiful figgy chunks peeking out of the bread would not leave me. So finally I broke down and make a loaf for us.
Thank goodness I did, because it was amazing! When I gave that first loaf to our friend Alana, she called me and said "This is the most sophisticated thing I've ever eaten!" Ha ha! It really is a wonderful and compelling combination of flavors.
Even though I accidentally added way too much orange zest, and even though there were lots of anise seeds in the batter, the end result was that the flavors all seemed to blend into one harmonious experience. No one flavor was dominant... until you bit into a big piece of soft cooked fig. Oh man, SO GOOD.