The Spanish anise and sesame cookies, tortas (cakes) de aceite y anís are very similar to reifat, the Moroccan anise biscuits I grew up on. The flavor is almost the same but the texture and shape are different. My ancestors probably brought the recipe to Morocco when they were exiled from Spain during the Inquisition. Or perhaps it came from the Moors?
The Spanish dough contains beer, whereas the Moroccan recipe calls for orange juice. The Jews most likely had to substitute the beer because alcohol was forbidden in Muslim countries. (Feel free to educate me by commenting below). Moroccan biscuits are made with baking powder and eggs therefore are thicker and fluffier. The Spanish divide the dough into equal pieces and roll each piece into an individual cookie. The Moroccans, who had to make dozens of them, rolled the dough into a large rectangle and cut it into diamonds.
If I wasn’t addicted to their flavor and texture, I would’ve made them more often. I just googled “Is anise addictive?” Again, nothing. However, I discovered that anise contains chemicals that might have estrogen-like effects. As you know, when women age their estrogen levels start to drop (menopause). Maybe that’s why my intuitive grandmother made anise biscuits on a weekly basis and why I crave them more than ever. Another fact I found on the internet is that anise seeds enhance libido and are good for indigestion, constipation, and migraine. I would eat them with a cup of tea on the sides. Mint* tea in the summer or shiba (wormwood) in the winter.
The recipe is adapted from “The Food of Spain” cookbook.
*mint is cooling and shiba is warming.
Olive Oil Anise 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.