Tortas de aceite

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I have not baked for some time, a combination of tiredness and busyness. I am in the last month of my current job and I am under a great deal of pressure (self-imposed) to get everything finished before I leave. I have been getting to the office early and leaving very late. It is not good for the soul, I can tell you that for free. I have two weeks left now but I am not sure I can sustain that pace of work. This morning I woke up early and decided that I needed to do something to restore my sense of balance, I have been knocked off-kilter and I need re-centering.

I have been eyeing up some recipes for tortas de aceite for sometime now. I first discovered them in Spanish when I stayed with my husband’s parents and they now have become a regular buy for me in departures at Malaga airport. After our last trip in May I came back with two packets of Ines Rosales Tortas de aceite and I was feeling slightly anxious about what would happen when they finished. It occurred to me that I could try and bake them myself, so I searched the internet for recipes, watched a number of Spanish cookery videos (only understanding bits)until I got the general gist. Along the way I learnt that these olive oil tortas, flat unleavened biscuits (sweet, crispy and flaky) were created as low maintenance snacks for stage coach passengers travelling through Seville.

As per usual I adjusted the recipe to suit the contents of my kitchen cupboard.

I did not have anise seeds but I used fennel seeds instead. Anise and fennel seeds contain anethole, an aromatic compound which gives them their similar liquorice tastes.

The final product was crispy and sweet and quite nice. So nice indeed that I ended up eating three whole ones (for quality control purposes of course) and therefore suddenly finding myself too full to eat dinner. I made a total of 14 and they will be eaten for breakfast this week and perhaps I might take some to work for a teatime snack. However I do note that I do not have a stack of wax papers to wrap them in on my precarious tube journey to West London…

INGREDIENTS
1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups Italian 00 flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
1/2 cup Spanish extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for the baking sheets
2/3 cup warm water
3 tablespoons raw sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
2 teaspoons instant yeast
Icing sugar, for dusting
All-purpose flour, for the work surface
1 large egg white, beaten


PREPARATION

1. Preheat the oven to 420°F (215°C).
2. Mix 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, and fennel seeds in a bowl. Set aside. Pour the olive oil into a measuring cup or another bowl with the water, then add the sugar and yeast and mix well. Set aside for a few minutes for the yeast to become frothy.
3. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and slowly pour in the yeast mixture, using a fork to gradually mix in the flour. When everything starts to come together, use your hands to mix it into a lovely, smooth dough. If the dough is sticky, add some or all of the remaining flour, a little at a time, until a smooth dough forms.
4. Lightly oil 2 large baking sheets, then dust them with icing sugar. Lightly flour a clean work surface and a rolling pin with all-purpose flour. Divide your dough into 12 equal-size pieces and shape each one into a ball, then roll out each ball until it’s almost translucent and about 5 inches in diameter. Place each torta on a baking sheet and lightly brush with some beaten egg white. Dust the biscuits lightly with icing sugar and then scatter a little caster sugar.
5. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Watch the tortas closely as they can burn in seconds. Immediately transfer the tortas to wire racks to cool.

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