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A friend at work gave me the box set of Jamie Oliver’s Food Escapes. I watched Andalucia first. The show is decent but my favorite travel/food show is still Anthony Bourdain’s. Anyway, I was intrigued by a cookie that he got from a bakery run by nuns who are secluded. You have to speak through an intercom in a wall and they spin the treats out on a round dolly thing that comes out of the wall.  The cookies were called “Tortas de la Virgen” and I just had to find a recipe!

It’s not so easy to find them on the internet.  I found lots of Spanish sites and a video but this was for a different type of thing also called Torta de la Virgen. It was more of a stuffed cake or pie on a baking sheet.  What I am looking for is a crisp crackery type cookie like this…

From Wikipedia, Tortas de Aceite

I learned that these are most likely the same thing, Tortas de Aceite, which means oil cakes.  I found a few recipes online but they seemed lacking something….then I discovered this site, Taste of Beirut . This recipe seemed to be what I was looking for. The only change I made was to add Orange Blossom Water.  I don’t know why but it seemed to me that I remembered Jamie mentioning that flavor although when I replayed it he had not.  I also halved the recipe from her site because I wasn’t sure if this was it and didn’t want to make mass amounts of cookies that I would dislike. I should have made the whole batch.

  • 1.75 oz olive oil  (use a good fruity oil for the flavor)
  • peel of 1/4 lemon or orange (I used lemon)
  • 1/2 Tb anise seed
  • 1.35 oz white wine or orange juice
  • .3 oz orange blossom water
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder plus 1/8 tsp
  • 1 1/2 Tb sugar (plus more for sprinkling on top)
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • sesame seeds                            

Heat the oil in a saucepan with the lemon peel until the peel is brownish, remove from heat, remove the peel and add the anise seed. Let it cool down.

Lemon peel in oil


Mix the flour, baking powder, sugar & cinnamon in a bowl. Add the wine, flower water & oil to the mix. Combine well and let rest for 30 mins or overnight in the fridge. 

The dough will be oily. Now roll into balls and press flat, you want these very thin.  Next time (and there will be a next time!) I will actually roll these flat.  Place on a parchment or silicone covered baking sheet and sprinkle with sugar and sesame seeds. You can also sprinkle with some cinnamon if you want.

Bake in a 325 oven for about 15 minutes. They should be golden. I actually left them in for about 17 mins but they were probably a little thicker than they should have been.  I will also make them larger in diameter next time.

These were delicious!  Not too sweet and very flavorful.  I also looked at some of the Spanish sites and they seem to add yeast to these so I might try that next time.