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Looking for a hearty bar that isn’t too sweet and filled with exotic flavors? Good! Because I am about to share a recipe with you. There is a beautiful medley of flavors taking place here… cranberry, coconut and star anise. Star anise being my favorite!
There is more to the star anise than just being the prettiest spice in the rack. Its flower-shaped pods add essential flavoring to popular dishes from several cultures. There are about a handful of spices that I just LOVE to inhale and star anise is one of them… hold in that inhaled breath and the scent coats your throat, leaving a therapeutic calm. I think we all could use a dose of therapeutic calm, don’t you?
If you can’t get a hold of star anise you could try using anise seed with an added pinch of allspice, although its flavor is different, it can give the bars a pungent, sweet kick and an exotic flair. Add allspice powder in trace amounts; too much could ruin the bars.
As another alternative, use 1-2 teaspoons of crushed anise seed. Anise seed is closely related to star anise seed and has a very similar flavor. However, its flavor is much weaker, so you should use about twice as much anise as a substitute for star anise.
Fennel seeds are another good option. They contain anethole, dianethole and photoanethole, the three same compounds also found in anise, star anise and licorice. You will need to use twice as much fennel seed as you would have star anise.
And for one last idea for a substitution (gotta give me points for trying) Chinese five-spice powder, which contains cloves, cinnamon, Sichuan pepper and ground fennel seeds.
And if for some crazy reason you are not to hip to the flavor star anise, skip it all together. Personally, I loved the flavor combination of the cranberries, coconut and star anise. :) I tend to find it in my local grocery stores, down the spice aisle or it may be stocked with Mexican foods, near the dried chilies but another great place to check is an Asian supermarket.
When purchasing star anise, look for whole pieces that aren’t broken. At home, store in a sealed container in a cool dark place. Properly stored, star anise will last for several months. Discard once the flavor fades.
yields 11 bars