Swedish Almond Anise Rusks

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This is a particularly Swedish treat which we enjoy at Fika (Swedish teatime). A rusk is a twice-baked, crisp cookie, like the biscotti but shorter in length. I developed this recipe in honor of my husband’s Grandma Mae, who was of entirely Swedish heritage. Her almond rusks were one of her oft-made, most-loved recipes among her children and grandchildren. I am grateful to not only have eaten them from her own humble kitchen, but also to carry on her heritage.

The anise is my addition, though it is not a strange one. The Swedes are fond of unique, under-appreciated, under-utilized herbs and spices – cardamom, dill, caraway, etc – and they seem to like to put them in unexpected places, especially where it can do the most good.  Here, combined with the almost-marzipan (but also humdrum) flavor of the rusks, the anise seed adds a burst of perky, oddly complementary flavor. You find anise in many of Sweden’s baked goods. If you’re intrigued by the idea of fika or need some authentic Swedish recipes, I highly recommend Fika: The Art of the Swedish Coffee Break.

The recipe below is gluten free, but you can use regular wheat flour in the same amounts with no trouble.  For an even more adventurous (but still distinctively Swedish) profile, use caraway instead of anise.  Also, for fancy days, you can add 1 cup of toasted, coarsely chopped almonds to the dough, but I omit this for regular consumption. Lastly, you will find that the rusks are mildly sweet and no more. If they are not sweet enough for you, you know what to do.

Swedish Almond Anise Rusks

1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 firmly packed brown sugar, coconut sugar, Lakanto, or 1 tablespoon Super Sweet Blend*
2 eggs
1 teaspoon almond extract

1 2/3 cups Pamela’s Bread Flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 teaspoons whole anise seeds, coarsely crushed

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a baking half sheet (approximately 11×16) or 2 smaller baking sheets with parchment paper.

Crush the anise seeds in a mortar and pestle.

*If you are using brown sugar, coconut sugar, or Lakanto, cream the butter and sugar together now, in a stand mixer or by hand, until the color has lightened. Add the eggs one at a time until well blended, then add the almond extract. With the motor running, add the dry ingredients and mix until the dough comes together.

*If you are using Super Sweet Blend, add this to the dry ingredients and combine well in the bowl of a stand mixer. Then add your softened butter (cubed), eggs, and almond extract and mix until the dough comes together.

On a lightly floured surface, shape the dough into 2 logs about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches thick and place them on the baking sheet.  Bake for 15-20 minutes until the tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and lower the heat to 300°. Let the logs cool for 10 minutes, then carefully transfer to a cutting board.

Using a serrated knife, carefully cut the cookies diagonally into 12 equally sized pieces (occasionally I can squeeze a few more out). (If you are using wheat flour, you can get as many as 18 pieces). On the same baking sheet and parchment, lay each piece flat and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven, turn each piece over, and bake for an additional 15-20 minutes. They want to look dry and golden brown on the edges. Remove them from the oven and let cool completely.

These store very well (up to a week) in an air-tight container. Enjoy with tea for mid-morning or mid-afternoon Fika.

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