Fennel is a wonderful herb that grows wild in California. If you ride horses, during the spring time in California, there is an abundance of wild mustard and fennel that grows along with sage and your steed will love to nibble as you ride along through the mountains of California. And there are many wilder areas where you can ride your horse!
I love to cook with Fennel and a new craze lately has been the use of Fennel Pollen in cooking. I have only tried it in cookies and it worked really well. The problem is that I have only been able to find it commercially on line – at Zingermans.com and PollenRanch.com.
We use the pollen from our own fennel that grows at our little farm. It is easy to use – just take your normal cookie recipe and sprinkle the pollen on top of the raw cookie dough just before you put it into the oven – it adds and enhances flavor sort of like lemon zest. It is particularly well matched to cinnamon and oatmeal based cookies. Of course cooking with kids – especially cookies – is always fun and adding something that you just harvested from your own backyard makes it even more special. I also like to help the children taste different flavors – so that they can reduce their salt usage and experiment more with herbs in food.
Here is a picture of the sugar cookies to which I added the fennel pollen. Note the pollen is a little bit sweet and harvested from the flowers of the fennel plants which means if you harvest it fresh, you will only be able to do so in the spring. We believe in buy local and think global – and this is a good example of it.
Sugar Cookies ( remember baking is better with music! How about The First Day At School Song!)
|2 1/4||cups (11 1/4 ounces) all purpose flour|
|1/2||teaspoon baking soda|
|1||teaspoon of baking powder|
|1 1/2||cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar , plus 1/3 cup for rolling|
|2||ounces cream cheese , cut into 8 pieces|
|6||tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter , melted and still warm|
|1/3||cup vegetable oil|
|22||tablespoons of fennel pollen ( if you have it and wish to use it!)teaspoons vanilla extract|
- Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together in medium bowl. Set aside.
- Place 1½ cups sugar and cream cheese in large bowl.
- Place remaining 1/3 cup sugar in shallow baking dish or pie plate and set aside. Pour warm butter over sugar and cream cheese and whisk to combine (some small lumps of cream cheese will remain but will smooth out later). Whisk in oil until incorporated. Add egg, milk, and vanilla; continue to whisk until smooth. Add flour mixture and mix with rubber spatula until soft homogeneous dough forms.
- Divide dough into 24 equal pieces, about 2 tablespoons each (or use #40 portion scoop). Using hands, roll dough into balls.
- Working in batches, roll balls in reserved sugar mixed with the fennel pollen ( if you wish to use it and have it handy) to coat and evenly space on prepared baking sheet, 12 dough balls per sheet. Using bottom of drinking glass, flatten dough balls until 2 inches in diameter. Sprinkle tops evenly with 4 teaspoons of sugar remaining in shallow dish (2 teaspoons per tray), discarding any remaining sugar.
- Bake, 1 tray at a time, until edges are set and just beginning to brown, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating tray after 7 minutes. Cool cookies on baking sheets 5 minutes. Using wide metal spatula, transfer cookies to wire rack and cool to room temperature.