Saturday, February 10, 2018


Tortas de aceite are the “little black dress” of cookies, because you can dress them up or down. Wear your pearls, sip cava and heap the crisp crackers with caviar. Or, get cozy in your jammies and spread them with peanut butter and jelly. Serve them for breakfast with coffee or tea, for dessert with cheese and fruit compotes, or, accompanied by a mellow muscatel wine, on a rainy afternoon with classical guitar music playing.

These tortas can be sweet or savory. Serve them with fruit, cheese, nuts and a mellow, medium-dry muscatel wine or sweet Sherry.

Tortas de aceite are round, olive oil flat breads/cookies/crackers. There are actually two versions, one a soft, sweet bun, another a crispy, wafer-like cookie. The crispy ones have attained gourmet status, tortas de aceite Ines Rosales® from Sevilla. The “legítimas y acreditadas” tortas are slightly sweet and contain both sesame and aniseed. (They are available in the US at specialty food stores and on-line from La Tienda.

Packaged tortas, the famous Tortas de Aceite Ines Rosales ®

But, for $15.95 for 12 tortas (in the US), you may want to make your own. They’re easy and fun.

Golden and crispy, olive oil tortas go with everything.

Tortas are studded with sesame and aniseed. This version has toasted almonds too.

Serve tortas alongside fruit compote (this is apple-raisin-cinnamon). Or heap the fruit right on the torta for a quickie "pie." Go ahead and add a dollop of ice cream. The tortas are equally good with springtime strawberries.

Goat cheese and crispy tortas, a perfect pairing.

Crispy Olive Oil Cookies/Crackers
Tortas de Aceite

Use bread flour or all-purpose flour for the dough. You will not need to flour the board for kneading this dough or for rolling out the tortas, as the oil keeps the dough from sticking. 

Almond blossom time in southern Spain. Add chopped almonds to the torta dough, if you like.
To celebrate almond-blossom time, I’ve added finely chopped almonds to the basic dough. If you prefer the tortas without almonds, add about ¼ cup additional flour.

The cookies are not overly sweet, with only a coating of sugar on the top. Make them sweeter with a honey glaze, made by boiling 1/3 cup honey with 2 tablespoons water for 6 minutes, then brushing it on the tortas when they come out of the oven. For savory crackers, omit the sugar and top the rolled tortas with flaky salt.

The olive oil is “infused” with lemon zest, aniseed and sesame. Heat the oil on a low fire—don’t allow the seeds to fry. Discard the lemon zest. Let the oil cool slightly before adding the yeast to it. The water for dissolving the yeast should be very warm, not hot (105ºF/ 40ºC).

Makes 12 (4-inch) cookies.

Warm water (105ºF/ 40ºC), ¼  + ¼ cups
1 envelope active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
6-inch strip of lemon zest
1 tablespoon aniseed
2 tablespoons sesame seed
2 cups bread flour
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup finely chopped toasted almonds
2 tablespoons sugar (optional)
Salt flakes (optional)

Place ¼ cup very warm water in a small bowl. Add the yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir to combine. Allow the yeast to proof 10 minutes, until it expands.

Place the oil in a small pan with the lemon zest, aniseed and sesame seed. Heat on low heat for 4 minutes. Cool slightly. Skim out and discard the strip of lemon zest.

Place the warm oil and seeds in a bowl. Add ¼ cup of warm water and the yeast mixture.

Combine the flour, salt and almonds. Beat them into the oil-yeast mixture in the bowl. When the dough is too stiff to mix, turn it out on a board. Knead the dough until very smooth and stretchy, 5 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball.

Place the ball of dough in an oiled bowl, turning it to coat both sides. Cover with a damp cloth and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 450ºF/ 230ºC. Line two or more baking sheets with baking parchment.

Roll balls of dough out very thinly. No flour needed on the board, as oil keeps the dough from sticking.

Sprinkle with sugar.
Punch down the dough and gather it into a ball. Divide the dough into 12 golf ball-size balls (about 1 ¼ ounce each). Roll out the balls as thinly as possible into 4-inch (approx.) circles. Place them on baking sheets.

For sweet cookies, sprinkle the tops of the tortas with 2 tablespoons sugar, pressing it lightly into the dough. For savory crackers, omit sugar and sprinkle tops with salt flakes.

Bake the tortas (in two or three batches) until they are browned on the edges, about 8 minutes. Cool them on a rack.

Store the tortas in a tightly covered container. 

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