Recipes Past & Present – Anise Poppy Seed Shortbread – May 28, 2021

I don’t know about you, but I’ve often looked at a recipe and wondered, “What the heck is anise, anyway?” So, before we tackle the recipe, let’s take a look at this mysterious ingredient.

Anise (also called aniseed or sweet cumin) belongs to the Apiaceae family, which includes carrots, celery and parsley. The plant’s leaves and roots are edible, but it’s best known for its small, brown seeds. They look very similar to fennel seeds, although they are significantly smaller. 

Like anise, fennel is also from the Apiaceae family, making it related to carrots, dill and anise. Fennel grows into an edible vegetable, and its fronds look almost exactly like dill. The seeds have a sweet, licorice flavor that’s more robust than anise. It’s a popular component in sausage making, and chai teas.

Anise seeds can be used whole, made into extracts, or ground into a powder. They have a sweet, fragrant aroma with a strong, licorice-like taste. Anise is commonly confused with star anise because of the similarity in name. Although star anise and aniseed have one word in common, they couldn’t be more different. Star anise is the fruit of a small evergreen tree in the magnolia family, and is most often found in Chinese Five-Spice blend. It’s much more intense and pungent than aniseed. Not recommended for substituting in this recipe!


  • 1 ½ cup/375 mL flour
  • 1 cup/250 mL crispy rice cereal
  • ½ cup/125 mL confectioners’ sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon/1.2 mL salt
  • 1 tablespoon/15 mL poppy seeds
  • ½ teaspoon/2.5 mL pure Anise extract
  • 1 cup/250 mL (2 sticks) butter cut into 16 pieces


Combine flour, rice cereal, confectioners’ sugar, salt, and poppy seeds with 3-4 pulses in food processor. Add extract and butter, several pieces at a time, pulsing until dough starts to come together. Spread dough into ungreased 13 x 9 inch/33 x 23 cm baking pan. Bake in 350F/180C oven 20-25 minutes or until pale golden brown. Cool completely on wire rack before cutting into 24 rectangles.

p.s. if you happen to lose this recipe, or would like it in French, look for it on the back of the box of our Pure Anise Extract. 

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