These crisp sugar cookies are Mary Castañeda Balzer's version of ones her mother made every Christmas in New Mexico. Lightly crush the anise seeds with a mortar and pestle or chop roughly with a knife. Use 2- to 2 1/2-inch cookie cutters.
3/4 cup solid vegetable shortening, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/4 cup orange juice
About 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons anise seeds, crushed (see note preceding)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
How to Make It
In a large bowl, with a mixer on medium speed, beat shortening and 3/4 cup sugar until smooth. Add egg, orange peel, and orange juice and beat just until combined.
In a medium bowl, mix 2 1/2 cups flour, anise seeds, baking powder, and salt. Add to shortening mixture, stir to mix, then beat until well blended. Divide dough in half and flatten each half into a disk. Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.
Unwrap dough. On a lightly floured surface, with a floured rolling pin, roll one disk at a time to about 1/8 inch thick. With floured cookie cutters, cut dough into shapes and place about 1 inch apart on buttered 12- by 15-inch baking sheets. Gather excess dough into a ball, reroll, and cut out remaining cookies.
In a small bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup sugar and the cinnamon. Sprinkle about 1/8 teaspoon of the mixture over each cookie; save any remaining cinnamon sugar for other uses.
Bake cookies in a 350° regular or convection oven just until edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes; if baking two sheets at once in one oven, switch their positions halfway through baking. Let cookies cool on sheets for 5 minutes, then use a wide spatula to transfer to racks to cool completely.