Had I been asked early yesterday afternoon if black olives had a place in a dessert course, my immediate answer would have been "no way!" After a moment or two of thinking I would have replied "may-be but, only in the hands of a highly skilled pastry chef."
But after baking a batch of Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Wafers I'd have to change my stance on olives in dessert. David Leite, author of The New Portuguese Table is quick to point out that these Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Wafers are not typical of Portuguese cuisine. What they are is an inspired riff on a biscoito, a dunking cookie similar to biscotti. By adding olive-cured olives and lemon zest, Leite has added a complexity of flavor and sweet-savory qualities that simple, home-baked cookies rarely attain.
Once the cookies are rolled out and baked into crisp, brittle wafers, the olives meld with the sugary dough and their sharp, bitter flavors are mellowed. There is something about adding sweetness to the olives that brings out notes of chocolate, raisins, and even red wine.
These thought-provoking flavors combined with their addictive crunch had me thinking up all sorts of ideas for food and drink pairings. A tawny port sprung to mind immediately given their vaguely Portuguese heritage, but they could just as easily be partnered with a bowl of strawberries drizzled with an aged balsamic vinegar or zabaglione.
As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The New Portuguese Table to give away this week.
- 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup mild oil-cured black olives, rinsed quickly if particularly salty, pitted and coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup sugar, plus more for coating
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
- 1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
- Pinch of kosher salt
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large egg, beaten
Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and crank the heat up to 375°F.
Stir together the flour, olives, sugar, baking powder, zest, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the oil and egg, pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with your hands until the dough no longer looks dry and holds together when squeezed, 1 to 2 minutes.
Fill a small bowl with sugar and set nearby. Pinch off 1 tablespoon (about 1 ounce) of dough, roll it in a ball, and coat it with the sugar. Place it in one corner of a sheet of parchment cut to fit your baking sheet, place another piece of parchment on top, and using a rolling pin, roll the ball into a 3 1/2-to-4-inch circle, scant 1/16 inch thick. The edges will be ragged; that's how they should be. Repeat with 5 more wafers on the same shape. Lift off the top sheet and slip the parchment with the cookies onto the baking sheet.
Bake until the wafers are edged with brown and pebbled on top, 10 to 12 minutes. Slide the parchment onto a wire cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough. Once cooled, the wafers will keep in an airtight container for several days, but I doubt they'll stick around for that long.