We all have moments of weakness. Mine usually come in the “specialty” aisle of the grocery store. You know, where they keep all the things labeled “triple cream,” “imported,” and “extra virgin.” They might as well have a big banner that reads “Welcome Ye Of Little Self Control!” One of my dirtiest little specialty secrets is Spanish Torta de Aceite–crisp olive oil crackers handmade in Seville and anywhere else in Spain there is olive oil just laying around.
The tortas come individually wrapped in wax paper in sets of 6, and once you get your hands on one, you’ll understand why: tortas are made up of 24% olive oil by weight, so they tend to leave an oil slick on everything they touch, including your fingers. I suspect they are actually deep fried in olive oil. Yum.
Since tortas cost a whopping $6 per package and are super-rich, they are a rare treat. So I thought I might sort it out at home, and for the most part, I have. This recipe yields the same piquant-sweet-beguiling Spanish torta flavor, but they aren’t nearly as greasy.
My favorite kind of of torta includes flour, orange, sesame, sugar, and anise seed, as reflected here. I include a bit of orange blossom water, to guild the lily, but honestly you could make these with garlic and coarse black pepper if that’s what floats your boat. Just remember, this is all about the flavor of olive oil, so here’s your chance to bust out the good stuff!
Olive Oil Crackers with Orange, Anise, and Sugar
Makes about 2 dozen 5-inch crackers
7 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
Zest of 1 orange
1/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, preferably Spanish
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water
2 cups (9 ounces) unbleached all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons anise seeds
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
10 tablespoons sugar, divided
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or silpat mats. In a 2-cup glass measuring cup, whisk together the orange juice, zest, oil (these crackers are all about the oil, bust out the good stuff), and orange blossom water.
In a mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, anise seeds, baking powder, salt, and 4 tablespoons of the sugar. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and knead until you have a smooth dough, 5 minutes. Cover and set aside for 30 minutes.
Divide the dough into walnut shell-size balls and cover with plastic. Dust a work surface with flour and roll 2 of the balls out into 5-inch rounds (you may need to start on one, let it rest for a few seconds, and move on to the 2nd ball. As the dough relaxes, it will be easier to roll without it springing back.) If the dough is sticky, dust it with flour and pick up the dough as you’re rolling to make sure it’s not sticking.
Transfer the rounds to a silpat-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough balls. Sprinkle the dough rounds with sugar, press lightly to adhere sugar to crackers. Bake, rotating baking sheets once, until the dough is crisped and brown, about 15 minutes. Cool the crackers on racks and store in an airtight container once cool.