Years ago when I was traveling through Europe, my brother and I having gotten tired of the hot springs and quaint village scene, which apparently can happen, took a day to ourselves and hopped a dilapidated train under a stainless steel sky from Baden to Vienna. At 17 and 19 we did what most teenagers in Europe did: went to the museums, toured the architecture, and quoted lines from Faust at the statue of Goethe. Obviously.
Such wild, irresponsible rigamarole characteristic of our heathen-like ages took a toll and we were forced to finally put down our saddlebags and sparkling waters (something that at that age we drank with reluctance as still water cost at least another one of the curious new Euros) and decided that food was in order.
At the time I had little interest in food and if I have a regret it's not treating myself to some truly glorious meals through Europe. A sin, really, but I suppose it's one more reason to visit again someday. Rather than go to a cafe or restaurant where my appalling French and our collective total lack of German would likely embarrass us all into a blush-colored puddle we agreed that a nearby pastry shop would be the best option. Not wanting to appear too terribly American we could easily look through display, point, and then pay without more than a simple, "Danke!"
There were lacquered pastries filled with fruit, puffy cheese danishes, and croissants filled with chocolate and bigger than any sandwich found in the states. Yet, I was drawn to a simple chocolate scone filled with candied grapefruit rind and scented with what I know now to be star anise. In fact, this would be my first introduction to the spice as the basked was decorated with broth curls of fresh grapefruit rind and whole star of the woody sterns, their polished seeds like beads of amber shining from within their points.
Chocolate, grapefruit, and star anise. It was a delirious combination, one I imagined must have been concocted centuries ago through Indo-China trade routes in the monsoon driven Malay Archipelago or the Silk Road. Combining citrus and spice with chocolate, however, definitely seemed like a European twist on a classic.
Later on in Monaco I found the same combination - grapefruit and star anise, this time without the chocolate - carefully tucked into a slice of cake at a simple bed and breakfast. (By the by, can I tell you how amazing it is to eat cake on a terrace overlooking the hills of Monte Carlo?)
It's strange... I've never seen this combination in the United States except a decade ago at a small chocolate shop in San Francisco. I turned the combination into a cupcake once, and then that seems to be it. Even internet searches of the elusive Port Royal profile seems to be rather amiss. It's part of the pastry world underground. Not even the hipsters have heard of it.
Until yesterday I hadn't given it a second thought until a friend offered me a bag of hearty white grapefruits and I recalled I had a small bottle of ground star anise. Why not use the two and lace a delicate sugar cookie? I imagine that these would be glorious dipped in chocolate, but when it begins to get warm my desire for cocoa collapses. Chocolate is a cold weather treat to me - with the exception of chocolate ice cream, naturally - and when it's warm out I prefer cleaner flavors.
This sugar cookie is just that. Adapted from a lemon cookie recipe I adore at Two Peas and Their Pod for a lemon sugar cookie this has a simple swap of grapefruit for the lemon and a pinch of ground star anise added. To call it dreamy isn't sufficient. In fact, the taste leaves me practically inebriated with glee. As I write this I can proudly declare I have punished no less than eight of them in the last hour. (They deserved it. I assure you.)
I will send you to their blog for the recipe because they deserve your clicks and I'm too lazy to recopy it. Just use their recipe but swap out grapefruit for lemon and add 1 teaspoon of ground star anise. Done and done.