That these cookies are made with olive oil and wine is not surprising when you realize that they’re a specialty of the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the South of France—it’s one of the non-butter regions of the country and one known for its vast vineyards. But if the mix of oil and wine isn’t surprising, just about every other thing about these cookies is: their shape is long, plump in the middle, and pointy at the ends, and they have a sophisticated flavor—first a little sweet, and then a little tangy, and finally, wonderfully mysterious. Right after they’re baked, their texture is crunchy at the tips and cakey in the center—wait a day or so, and the chubby middle dries and starts to resemble a great tea biscuit. In fact, I like these best after they’ve had a little time to age and develop a crunchier texture and a more mellow flavor.
You can use any white wine or even any rosé you have on hand, but if you use a sweet or off-dry wine, you’ll come closer to the original cookies, which are made with Muscat de Rivesaltes, a Roussillon star. In the Languedoc-Roussillon, these cookies are often flavored with orange-flower water (instead of vanilla, which was my idea) or enriched with anise seeds. My favorite addition is grated orange (or tangerine or clementine) zest. To get the most out of the zest, first put the sugar in the mixing bowl, sprinkle over the zest, and use your fingers to rub the sugar and zest together until the sugar is moist and aromatic. Add the rest of the dry ingredients and continue with the recipe.
- 2¾ C (374 g) all-purpose flour
- ½ C (100 g) sugar
- ½ t baking powder
- ¼ t fine sea salt
- ½ C (120 ml) olive oil, extra-virgin or not, preferably fruity
- ½ t pure vanilla extract
- ½ C (120 ml) white wine, preferably sweet (see note above)
- + sugar, for dredging
This is the kind of cookie that might come to a French table as the go-along with a fruit salad, but they’re also great with coffee or tea—their shape and texture just about call out “Dunk, dunk.” Although it’s not at all traditional, I serve them with white wine in the summer. They’re sweeter than the usual aperitif cracker, but they’re much more surprising.
Of course you can serve these cookies as soon as they reach room temperature, but I think they’re better a couple of days later. Packed into a container, they will keep at room temperature for at least 5 days.
Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in a large bowl. Pour in the olive oil, switch to a flexible spatula, and stir to incorporate—you don’t have to be thorough now. Stir the vanilla extract into the wine, then pour the wine mixture into the bowl and mix until you have an easy-to-work-with dough. It will be smooth on the outside, but peek inside and you’ll see that it looks like a sponge; when you pinch and pull it, you’ll be surprised at how stretchy it is.
Divide the dough into pieces about the size of a large cherry or small walnut and roll each one into a ball. Next, roll each ball under your palm to shape it into a short sausage. When you’ve got the sausage shape, press down on the ends with your thumb and pinkie (don’t press the center), and roll up and back a few times to form a cookie about 4 inches long that is just a little plump in the center and tapered at the ends. Dredge each cookie in sugar and arrange the cookies on the baking sheets. (Before they’re dredged, the shaped cookies can be frozen on the lined baking sheets, and then, when firm, packed airtight and kept in the freezer for up to 2 months. There’s no need to defrost before baking.)
Bake the cookies for 20–22 minutes, rotating the baking sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 10 minutes, until the cookies have brown tips and bottoms and golden bellies. (If baking from frozen, dredge the cookies in sugar and bake a minute or two longer.) Cool the cookies on the baking sheets and, if you can stand it, wait at least a day before serving.