These fragrant Spanish cookies, tortas (cakes) de aceite y anís, remind me of my grandmother’s anise biscuits, Reifat. I often wonder about their origin. Did the exiled Jews brought them to Morocco from Spain? Alternatively, did the Moors introduce them to Spain during their conquest in 711 AD?
I find the small differences in both recipes quite interesting. The Spanish version includes beer, while the Moroccan version calls for orange juice. I assume the reason behind this variation is that alcohol was forbidden in Morocco. Another notable difference is the way both cultures shape their cookies. The Spanish cookie is large and round, while the Moroccan tradition involves creating one large rectangular sheet that is then cut into diamond shapes. Honestly, I love both versions equally. This recipe has been adapted from “The Food of Spain” cookbook.
Anise & Sesame Cookies
- 2 baking sheets
- baking paper
- 2 cups all purpose flour
- 1 cup almond flour or *all purpose flour
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ cup beer
- ½ cup coconut sugar
- ¼ cup sesame seeds
- 2 tablespoons anise seeds
- 1 tablespoon poppy seeds - Optional
- Whisk the flours, salt and coconut sugar in a medium bowl. Pour over the olive oil and beer, and stir with a wooden spoon. Knead the dough in the bowl for 1-2 minutes. If the dough is too dry, add 1 – 2 tablespoons of water. Dust your work surface and knead the dough on it for 2 – 3 minutes. Form a ball and put it back in the bowl. Cover with a clean kitchen towel (to prevent the dough from drying) and let it rest for 10 minutes.
- Put all the seeds in a small bowl and mix.
- Preheat the oven to 200°F.
- Dust your work surface and divide the dough into 16 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball. Put 1 – 2 teaspoons of seed mix in a pile and put the ball over it. Press it gently and with a rolling pin roll into a thin, semi-round (or cloud-like) cookie. Embedding the seeds underneath. Put the cookies on the baking sheet with the seeds facing up and bake for 5 to 6 minutes or until the cookies are crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven. Turn the broiler on and broil the cookies for 40-60 SECONDS, or until they’re golden. Wait by the oven and don’t be on your phone! The cookies are thin and will easily burn.
- I like to mix it all purpose flour with whole, nut or legume flours to make baked good more nutritious. Feel free to replace the flour with a gluten-free all-purpose flour.