A few day ago, a very good friend of mine and godmother to one of my children returned from a trip to Burgundy and brought me back three lovely oval tins filled with delicious pastilles from Flavigny, called Anis de l´Abbaye de Flavigny. The story of the Anis de Flavigny dates back to the rise of the pastilles in the mid 1500s in Europe as sugar became more readily available. The most basic definition of a pastille is “a kernel of something coated with sugar". It can be a natural almond, like Jordan Almonds, or an anise seed, like Anis de Flavigny.
The pastille was often the work of a pharmacist or herbalist, not a confectioner. They started with seeds or herbs that were prescribed for various medical reasons like fever, then coated them with sugar syrup, tossed them in a pan and repeated the process until layer upon layer was built up. The most talented pharmacists made beautiful pastilles that looked like shimmering opalescent spheres and were kept as if they were treasures as well, inside ornate boxes, often locked by the lady of the household.
Les Anis de Flavigny probably has one of the longest histories of a candy, as the Town of Flavigny may have been making these pastilles since Roman times. To this day, these pastilles are manufactured by confectioners in those largely unchanged traditions. Each pastille takes fifteen days to make. They still start with a single anis seed and then a sugar syrup is poured over it, tumbled until dry then repeated dozens of times. The first, Anis de Flavigny packages were long cardboard tubes. When Jean Troubat launched the sale of his Anis in vending machines in the 1950s, he needed a solid box that could fall from the machines. This is how the first metal tin, at first round, then oval, appeared. Today, you will also find these cute “tasting sachets” in cafés, hotels and restaurants.
Les Anis de Flavigny come in ten different natural flavors: anise, of course, but also blackcurrant, lemon, orange blossom, ginger, tangerine, mint, liquorice, rose and violet, all rather classic and with an charmingly old world.
Dedicated to its origins, Anis de Flavigny operates from a former Benedictine abbey in the beautiful French village of Flavigny-sur-Ozerain, Burgundy.
The gorgeous tins tell a little story as two lonesome young people pine in solitude, then meet, share their candies and their affection.
There are naturally flavored Mint Pastilles with a wonderful refreshing mint flavor that is not too strong but just right…
…and then there are the delicately flavored floral Violet Pastilles that are made according to a 9th century recipe…
…and then the very famous Anise Pastilles that are also one hundred percent naturally flavored.
Since we love the flavor of anise seeds, I let myself be inspired by these delicious anise candies and decided to bake two wonderful and easy Anise Tea Cakes. The cakes smelled absolutely wonderful while baking. They are flavored with anise seeds, are baked in specialty baking pans and are what we call “dry cakes" that is, they are perfect for dipping in a cup of tea. And while the delicate flavor of the anise seeds permeates these cakes, it is by no means overpowering.
Please note that you can either serve the cake while still warm and fresh from the oven or you wait until it cools down, slice it and dry the slices at low temperature in the oven, much like biscotti or rusks. That way, they will keep for quite some time if stored in a dry place and make wonderful gifts for that person in your life that enjoys the delcate flavor of anise.
If you prefer another taste like vanilla, you can substitute the anise seeds with natural vanilla sugar instead.
Anise Tea Cakes
(Teekuchen mit Anis)
Ingredients for the Cakes
(this recipe will yield two cakes)
- a bit of unsalted butter for greasing the two loaf pans
- 5 eggs (L), free range or organic if possible
- 250 grams (8.8 ounces/1.2 cups) superfine (caster) sugar
- 250 grams (8.8 ounces/2 cups) AP (plain) flour, plus some extra for dusting the pan
- 1 tbsp baking powder
- one pinch of fine sea salt
- 1 1/2 tsp anise seeds
- 1 tbsp lemon zest (organic if possible)
- 1 – 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- two 30. 5 cm (12 inch) so-called half round loaf pans (Rehrücken Backform)*
Preparation of the Cakes
- Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius (350 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Lightly butter and flour two loaf pans, shaking out the excess.
- In the bowl of your electric mixer, beat together eggs and sugar at high speed until tripled in volume and thick enough to form a ribbon, 5 to 8 minutes.
- In another bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt and anise seeds.
- Sift the flour mixture over the egg mixture in 3 batches, folding in each batch.
- Gently stir in lemon zest and juice.
- Immediately pour the batter into the two loaf pans and smooth the tops.
- Bake until top is golden brown and a wooden pick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 45 to 50 minutes.
- Cool loaves about 5 minutes, then invert onto cooling racks and cool for about 30 minutes more.
- If you prefer to “double-bake” your cake slices, you can do so by drying them in the oven at low temperature until they reach the crispness that you like – a bit like Biscotti.
- Decrease oven temperature to 120 degrees Celsius (250 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Trim the ends of the loaves and cut loaf crosswise into 1.3 cm (0.5 inch) thick slices.
- Bake on a baking sheet until undersides are golden brown, about 20 to 30 minutes. Turn over and bake until undersides are golden brown, about another 20 to 30 minutes more
- NOTE: loaves can be baked (but not sliced) 2 days ahead and kept, wrapped in foil, at room temperature or frozen 1 month.
These are cakes that I baked in two of my a special baking pans that look like long loaf pans curved in a half-moon shape with evenly spaced grooves across the width, and a flat section down the center, known as a “Half Round Loaf Pan” (Rehrücken Backform)*. But these cakes can easily be made in regular loaf pans as well or you could try to find these baking pan in German or Austrian specialty stores or online. The baking pans are made from different materials such as stoneware, aluminium or non-stick.
Many thanks to my lovely and dear friend who thought about me while vacationing in wonderful Burgundy, France and brought me back these wonderful Anise, Violet and Mint Pastilles and inspired some nice Wednesday afternoon baking followed by a wonderful Afternoon Tea!