Last week we were at a party to celebrate a friend who was retiring from her job. It’s a big deal. She’s not even 50 yet and she is able to retire!! She wants to travel with her husband and so all of us surprised her with a party to celebrate and tried to disguise our envy. :)
The food was delicious. There was a gorgeous cheese tray that the retiree herself put together (she sure has a talent for putting together an eye-catching assortment of cheeses) and tucked in a basket with some other crackers were these unique crackers that were like nothing I had ever tasted before. They were crunchy and sweet with a hint of anise which tastes like black licorice. The new retiree said they were purchased at The Fresh Market.
So of course they were first thing I looked for when I was shopping there this week. I believe they are called Tortas but of course they were sold out on the day I was there.
So, I dug around online and uncovered this same recipe several times on several different websites. The ingredient list looked like all of the same flavors that I remember so decided to go ahead and I prepared a batch of them today. The recipe I followed came from the blog Taste of Beirut where there is an excellent blog post and description with photos of how they were made.
Here is the recipe.
Sweet Olive Oil Tortas
5 ounces of extra virgin olive oil
peel of half a lemon or orange (I used the peels from both.)
1 tablespoon of anise seeds (or ground anise) (I used seeds.)
3.5 ounces of white wine (or fresh orange juice) (I used the juice of 1 fresh orange and 1 fresh lemon.)
2 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of ammonia powder (I didn’t have any of this but will shop for it for the future. It helps to make the crackers more crunchy.)
3 tablespoons of sugar plus more for sprinkling on the crackers
1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon plus more for adding to the sugar sprinkled on the crackers
1/4 cups of sesame seeds, toasted till golden ( I toasted them in a dry saute pan on top of the stove. Toast them till they are a light golden brown but be careful not to burn them.)
Peel the lemon (yellow part if possible only) to get a long strip. Place the lemon peel and the olive oil in a small skillet and heat the oil until the peel starts to brown. Remove the peel, add the anise seeds and cool the oil.
Sift the flour, baking powder and ammonia powder in a mixing bowl. Add the cinnamon and sugar and mix in.
Add to the flour mixture the olive oil, anise seeds, wine or juice. Mix to combine well. You should obtain a moist and firm dough.
Let the dough rest for 30 minutes in a bowl or plastic wrap. If not using right away, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one day.
Line several cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat. Place 1/2 cup of sugar (with a pinch of cinnamon if you like) in a small bowl. Place the sesame seeds in another small bowl.
Form small walnut- sized balls of the same size if possible from the dough and line them up and cover them with a piece of plastic wrap. Take one ball at a time and press on it with your fingertips on the parchment-lined cookie sheet till it gets as thin as possible, ideally 1/2 mm or 1/16 of an inch.
Sprinkle the crackers with a bit of sugar and sesame seeds.
Bake in a preheated 325F oven for about 15 minutes or until browned around the edges and dry.
These are a delicious and unique cookie/cracker that we enjoyed with a glass of wine and an assortment of cheeses. But I also think these would be very nice to enjoy with a hot cup of tea or coffee. They are a bit labor intensive but so worth it!