One of the things I like the best about living in the big city is the vast array of cultures and religions all in one place. Most months there’s at least one holiday of various origins going on (as anyone who follows the religion of alternate side of the street parking will avow) and if you are lucky there’s a food associated with it. So while I was raised within a specific liturgy, these days I tend to follow a broad range of dogma, based upon the food served on holy days. To me, the majority of religions are basically all the same at the core anyway — love one another, treat people and the earth how you would want to be treated, there’s a greater “something” than us out there, and collective positive thought can make good things happen. So really it’s just the edges and the clothing that are different. And when the celebratory food is good in a particular faith, well then, I’m onboard for that feast. Which means during this holiday-chocked season I’m a culinary Hindi during Diwali, epicuriously Jewish on Chanukah, and up to my eyeballs in cookies and breads at Christmas. In other words, I’m gastronomically religious.
Saturday is the first night of Hanukah, one of my favorites of the food-related observances. Who wouldn’t love a holiday based upon a really cool story and spelled at least four different ways (and counting) so even if you spelled it wrong you are probably spelling it right, and where doughnuts, potato pancakes and various things fried feature prominently in the culinary liturgy. AND you can play a game and win chocolate! Yup, I’m all over Hanukkah! So for this holiday based on oil, I tried to come up with a recipe that featured it too. One of my favorite desserts is an orange olive oil cake I first had in Rome about 12 years ago and have been making ever since. So for this Chanukkah, I wanted to figure out a way to feature olive oil in a cookie. Luckily there were several recipes to peruse via Google, and in the end I came up with one that incorporated several of them with a few twists of my own.
My Orange Olive Oil Cookies have the rich cake-like feel of madeleines but without having to run out and buy special pans. They get their orange flavor from four sources, orange zest and juice, candied orange peel and a splash of Cointreau, and I’ve made the texture and color a little more interesting with the addition of some semolina flour. Finally, since it is a holiday, I’ve gilded (or ‘gelt-ed’) the cookie a touch more by dipping their bottoms in chocolate. These probably won’t last eight nights, but they will sure make the first one or two extra special.
Orange Olive Oil Cookies
Makes 4-4 ½ dozen cookies
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 cup semolina flour
½ tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
½ cup olive oil
¾ cup orange juice
½ TBSP orange zest
1 tsp Cointreau (you could substitute vanilla if you like)
½ cup chopped candied orange peel
4 oz. dark chocolate, chopped (I use a combination of bittersweet and semisweet)
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Line two or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Wisk all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl. Add in the orange zest and whisk to combine. In a medium bowl mix the eggs, orange juice, olive oil, and Cointreau or vanilla together. Add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until just combined (don’t over mix). Add in the candied orange peel and mix until incorporated.