The mighty olive strikes again

I had big plans for a productive day yesterday. Then I was reminded of a plan that I myself had instigated last week for a collective outing to watch the notorious Borat. And so it was that I found myself back in a shopping mall, that den of evil that once was my favourite haunt. (The reason it’s not anymore is simple: no money = no fun).

Borat was brilliant and disturbing and slightly more and less than everyone had expected. I have little to add to what everyone else is saying about it.

But I was quite proud of the cookies that I whipped up in a fit of (further) proscrastination as soon as it became clear that no work would be accomplished and I still had an hour to kill.

I’m generally pretty good at oven work (baking, roasting etc.), but there are some things I stay away from because I never seem to get the chemistry right and generally prefer the bought versions. Muffins and cookies fall into this category. (Having said this, the cookie thing never bothered me much because I don’t actually like them that much. That I can’t make good muffins does bother me, because I do like them.)

Anyway, I was on the phone to a friend who said, “Why not bake some cookies quickly?”. I don’t think it was meant with any seriousness, but such is the power of language. It sows seeds. So I did a quick search for “easy cookies” and found one recipe that looked relatively simple, involving the usual basics: eggs, flour, baking powder, sugar, butter. Great, I have all that.

No, wait. Problem. I have no butter. Another search: “olive oil cookies”. I found a recipe for Made in Napa Valley Lemon Olive Oil Cookies. This could work.

Of course neither my cookies nor any of my ingredients were Made in Napa Valley, so making full use of my baker’s creative licence, here is my version, inspired by someone in Napa Valley:

1 generous cup flour
1/2 cup sugar (plus some)
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tbsp. milk
juice and zest from 1 orange
1/2 tsp. lemon essence
spice from 3 freshly ground cardamom pips

Mix all the dry stuff, then the wet stuff, add the dry to the wet, mix it all up till it looks like cookie dough. Roll into little balls, roll the little balls in sugar, place on a baking sheet with enough room to spread (as cookies do), bake for 13-14 minutes at 180C.

The tip from the original recipe to not overbake is pertinent: they feel soggy when you take them out, but as long as they are lightly browned around the edges, they’re baked through, and will harden as they cool down.

They are, in fact, really very nice. As the Napa people suggest, the olive oil gives a nice chewy inside and the sugar coating a nice crispy outside. The cardamom also works well, but I suppose any spice could work, and neither would I frown at going the herb route and adding a little freshly chopped rosemary instead. Imagine that with a cup of good coffee, perhaps a little dessert wine. Buonissimo.

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