That these cookies (a recipe from Baking Chez Moi) are made with olive oil and wine is not surprising when you know that they’re a specialty of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in France’s southwest – it’s one of the non-butter regions of the country and the one that grows more wine grapes than any other part of France. But if the mix of oil and wine isn’t surprising, just about every other thing about these cookies is: Their shape is long, plump in the middle and pointy at the ends; their flavor is really pretty grown-up – first they’re a little sweet and then they’re a little tangy and finally they’re just plain wonderfully mysterious; and their texture is crunchy at the tips and cakey in the center, at least it is right after they’re baked – wait a day or so and the chubby center dries and starts to resemble a great tea biscuit. In fact, I like these best after they’ve had a little time to ‘age’ and to develop a crunchier texture and a more mellow flavor. You can use any white wine or even any rosé you have on hand, but if you a sweet or off-dry wine, you’ll come closer to the original cookies, which are made with Muscat de Rivesaltes, a Roussillon star.
Photograph by Alan Richardson.
Olive Oil and Wine Cookies
From Baking Chez Moi
Makes about 36 cookies
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/2 cup olive oil, extra-virgin or not, fruity is best
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup white wine, a sweet wine is nice here (see above)
Additional sugar, for rolling
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone baking mats.
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and sea salt together in large bowl. Switch to a spatula, pour in the olive oil and stir to incorporate – you don’t have to be fanatically thorough now. Pour the vanilla extract into the wine, then pour the wine into the bowl; mix until you have an easy-to-work-with dough. It will be smooth on the outside, but peek inside it and you’ll see that it looks like a sponge; when you pinch and pull it, you’ll be surprised at how stretchy it is.
Divide the dough into pieces about the size of a cherry or small walnut and roll each piece into a ball. Next, roll the dough under your palm to shape it into a short sausage. When you’ve got the sausage, keep rolling, but pressing on the dough only with your thumb and pinky, so that you produce a cookie about 4-inches long that is just a little plump in the center and tapered at the ends. Shaped like this, the cookies reminded me of the drawing the Little Prince did of a boa constrictor who’d swallowed an elephant. Roll each boa constrictor in sugar and arrange the cookies on the baking sheets. (The cookies can be shaped, but not rolled in sugar, frozen on a lined baking sheet and then, when they’re firm, packed airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. There’s no need to defrost before baking, just dust with sugar and add a minute or two to the baking time.)
Bake the cookies for 20 to 22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets front to back and top to bottom after 10 minutes. Properly baked, the cookies will have brown tips and bottoms and golden bellies. Cool the cookies on the baking sheets. If you can stand it, wait at least a day before serving.
Serving: This is the kind of cookie that might come to a French table as the go-along with a fruit salad, but I think they’re great with coffee or tea – their shape and texture just about call out “dunk, dunk” – and, although it’s not at all traditional, I serve these with white wine in the summer. They’re sweeter than a usual aperitif cracker, but they’re so much more surprising, and I like that.
Storing: Of course you can serve these cookies as soon as they reach room temperature, but I think they’re better a couple of days later. Packed in a container, the cookies will keep at room temperature for at least 5 days.
Bonne idée: In the Languedoc-Roussillon, these cookies are often flavored with orange-flower water (instead of vanilla, which was my bonne idée) or enriched with green anise seeds. My favorite addition is freshly grated orange (tangerine or clementine) zest. To get the most of the addition, first put the sugar in the mixing bowl, sprinkle over the zest and use your fingers to rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Put the rest of the dry ingredients in the bowl and continue with the recipe.