Tortas de Aceite

If you enjoyed my last post on Spanish picos then chances are you’ll also like today’s treat – tortas de aciete, or olive oil cakes. I say cakes, but they are more like crackers. Or biscuits? Actually, it’s hard to work out quite what to call them – the best I can come up with is “sweet crispbread with aniseed” to give you a hint about what these are like.

Like picos this is another delight from the southern Spanish region of Andalusia. The most famous brand is Ines Rosales, which I’ve seen in Spanish stores in the past – they come in quite a retro blue and white wrapping promising that they are las legítimas y acreditadas. When we were in Seville recently, I finally got round to buying a packet, and when I finally tried them back home, I really was smitten.

I expected them to be savoury, so was surprised to find they are actually sweet. They are thin and crisp, sprinkled with sugar that has lightly caramelised during baking, and flavoured lightly with aniseed. And they’re really quite annoyingly more-ish. They’re great smashed into shards and enjoyed with tea or a cup of coffee.

tortasdeaceite1

Their exact origins are unknown, but they date back to the 16th century where they are referred to in literature. Seen in context, these must have been a luxurious treat – they don’t have much sugar in them, so these seem to me a clever way of making what would have been an expensive ingredient go a long way.

There are, inevitable, lots of recipes to make these tortas. There is, of course, the secret version belonging to Ines Rosales. However, their recipe is safe, as you can make a decent version yourself at home – you just need white bread dough made with olive oil, or just take some pizza dough and work in some oil and aniseed.

Actually, I write that and make it sound so simple. Well, when it came to making these delights, I had to admit that I really, really struggled with them. Really struggled. The dough was soft and a bit sticky, so they were a complete and utter pain to roll out. They stuck to my hands. They stuck to my rolling pin. They stuck to my worktop! All in all, very frustrating! I tried chilling the dough, I tried using flour to dust, I tried using no flour and a drop of oil, but it was all to no avail. I was left facing that most awful of situations…I might have to chuck everything in the bin and admit defeat.

Before giving up, I thought I would give it one more try to make my tortas. I normally put greaseproof paper on my baking tray, but I tried adding the dough directly to the tray. As the dough contained olive oil, I reckoned the baked tortas would not stick, and I would be able to drop the dough on there and just press it out thinly into a circle.

tortasdeaceite4 tortasdeaceite2
And…as you can see from those pictures, this worked like a dream! The dough went into a hot oven, and the tortas cooked quickly, browning on the edges and puffing up in places, leaving the typical mottled appearance. Success!

Would I make these again? Absolutely! They are actually quite easy to make, and offer lots of scope to adapt them – you could add other aromatic seeds such as fennel, or spices such as cardamom or cinnamon. Citrus zest would also work well, or you could go completely different – don’t sprinkle any sugar on top before baking, and make them into savoury crackers instead.

tortasdeaceite3

To make tortas de aciete (makes around 25-30):

• 80ml extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 heaped teaspoon aniseed
• 100 ml water
• 1 teaspoon instant yeast
• 50g white sugar
• 250g strong white flour
• pinch of salt
• 1 egg white, beaten
• caster sugar, for sprinkling
1a. If using a bread machine: put everything except the egg white into the mixing bowl. Run the “dough” cycle. Simples!

1b. If making by hand: put the flour, salt, sugar and yeast into a bowl. Add the water and mix well. Knead for around 5 minutes until elastic, and then work in the olive oil and aniseed. Leave the dough a warm place for an hour until the dough has doubled in size. Knock back and knead again for 2-3 minutes.

2. Once the dough is ready, turn it onto a floured surface. Divide into equal pieces.

3. Preheat the oven to 210°C (420°F).

4. Roll each piece of the dough into a ball. Put onto a lightly oiled baking tray and press flat into a large, thin circle (12-15cm). I managed to fit 3 tortas onto a large baking sheet. Brush each torta lightly with beaten egg white and sprinkle with some caster sugar.

5. Bake the tortas for around 5-8 minutes until they are golden and browned at the edges. You might want to go easy on the first few to make sure you’re getting the temperature and baking time correct – it will depend on the size and thickness of the tortas.

6. Keep going until all the dough is used up. Once the baked tortas are cooled, store in an airtight container to keep the crisp.

11 Comments

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11 responses to “Tortas de Aceite

  1. These look so simple and good. And I’m with you. They totally look savory. I’m going to give these a try.

    • Thanks Amanda. Word of warning – This recipe does make a lot so might be a good idea to make half the quantity. Otherwise just pinch off a bit of pizza dough or some white bread door and add olive oil and some aniseed. The quick cheat’s method!

  2. Cynthia

    OMG, I love these! I had thought of looking for a recipe, but that’s as far as I got. Thank you for working this one out. I can imagine that this recipe would make loads, you must have been baking for hours (or maybe you just have lots of baking trays?)

  3. CC

    I think this is a sign: I literally JUST booked a flight to London (I had planned all along to go to Germany first, and have been fretting so much about planning my trip) and the first thing I see in my in-box is LONDON EATS after not seeing one of your posts in AGES! Hopefully it was the right decision and everything else will fall into place (including making it up to Scotland).

    These cracker/cakes look beautiful! I’m not so sure about the aniseed flavour for me as I’m not a huge fan, but I’d have to try them to be sure🙂 As much as I’m not crazy about cinnamon either, I think these would be lovely made plain and then sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. Your posts always inspire me! Lovely photos, too!

  4. My friends and family always ask me to bring these back (and I lvoe the packaging of the Ines Rosales ones ) but have never thought to make them – well done for persevering!

  5. 7m

    look flowing saliva! ^^

  6. Beautiful Torta de Aceite!

  7. Oh, my! You are hitting some many things that resonate here! I long to revisit London. And Scotland. And Spain. And I just may have to try those littles goodies myself. Note to American readers- English/imperial cups are different than ours. Any recioe that uses them, go by weight instead. Please. My best friend sent me her scone recipe years ago without knowing that. What a mess! Lol.

  8. these look great and really satisfying. Reckon they could be done without egg?

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