Portuguese Spice Cookies

READY IN: 1hr 15mins
YIELD: 24 cookies


  • Filling
  • 1 18
    cups water
  • 1 14
    cups sugar
  • zest of one lemon, grated
  • 1
    tablespoon anise seed
  • 12
    teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1
    teaspoon butter
  • 1 12
    cups breadcrumbs, made from day-old firm, white bread
  • Portuguese Tart Pastry
  • 1 12
    cups flour
  • 12
    cup sugar
  • 18
    teaspoon salt
  • 2
    tablespoons butter
  • 2
    eggs, lightly beaten


  • Position rack in center of the oven, preheat oven to 350 degrees; line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • Starting with the pastry dough: mix together the flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl; cut the butter into small bits and work into the flour, along with the eggs, until a smooth dough is formed.
  • Cover with a clean kitchen towel and set aside for 10 minutes before rolling dough out on a floured board.
  • For the filling: combine the water, sugar and lemon zest in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, boil until the mixture reaches 220 degrees on a candy thermometer, takes about 10 minutes.
  • Remove pot from the heat and let cool slightly.
  • Crush the anise seeds in a mortar or a spice mill, add to the sugar mixture, along with the cinnamon, butter and breadcrumbs, mix well.
  • The mixture should resemble bread stuffing.
  • Roll out a third of the pastry as thinly as possible.
  • Using a pastry cutter or knife, cut 3-inch-wide strips of pastry.
  • With the same cutter make 1/2 inch horizontal slits just off one long edge of the pastry, about 3/4 inch apart.
  • Spread some cooled filling down the center of the strip, then fold the side with the slits over the solid side, enclosing the filling and sealing the edges.
  • Cut into 3-inch long cookies.
  • Place on a lined baking sheet.
  • Repeat with the remaining pastry.
  • Bake until the cookies are golden brown, about 15 minutes, be careful not to let them burn.
  • Let cool on the cookie sheet for 10 minutes, then remove the cookies to a rack to cool completely.
  • Store in an airtight container at room temperature.