Portuguese Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Cookies

Portuguese Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Cookie Recipe

Cookies aren’t exactly a specialty of the Portuguese. Traditionally they tend to be crumbly and plain, more like dunking biscuits. One day at a dinner party, though, I had a sweet, thin cookie with a distinctive snap. I immediately made copious notes in my ever-present little black book, nibbling one cookie after the next to discern their various traits. The only thing is, I never asked the hostess for the recipe. I spent months trying to come up with a cookie that matched hers, and finally I think I’ve done her proud. But I ratcheted up the recipe, adding two iconic Portuguese flavors to the mix: olive and lemon. Serve these cookies alone, as a lovely accompaniment to tea, or, my favorite, as a crunchy bite alongside a scoop of vanilla ice cream or lemon sorbet.–David Leite

LC A Conversation-Starting Cookie Note

We think these conversation-starting cookies defy the laws of physics. We think you’ll agree when you experience what big flavors they flaunt for something so thin.

Portuguese Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Cookie Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 20 M
  • 50 M
  • Makes about 15 wafers

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup 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, , preferably organic
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Pinch of kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large egg, beaten

Directions

  • 1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and crank up the heat to 375°F (190°C). Cut 3 pieces of parchment paper cut to fit your baking sheet.
  • 2. Stir together the flour, olives, sugar, baking powder, lemon 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.
  • 3. Fill a small bowl with sugar and set nearby. Pinch off 1 rounded tablespoon (about 1 ounce) of dough, roll it into a ball, and coat it well with sugar. Place the parchment paper on your work surface and place the dough ball near one corner of the parchment. Place another piece of parchment on top and, using a rolling pin, roll the ball into a 3 1/2- to 4-inch circle that’s a scant 1/16 inch thick. The edges of the cookie will be ragged; that’s how it should be. Repeat with 4 or 5 more wafers on the same sheet. Lift off the top sheet of parchment and slip the parchment with the cookies onto the baking sheet.
  • 4. Bake until the lemon-olive cookies 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, using a new piece of parchment for each. Once cooled, the cookies will keep in an airtight container for several days, but I doubt they’ll stick around that long.
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Comments
Comments
  1. Dear Mr. Leite,

    Since I do lurk around on your Culinaria now and then, and have for some time, it came as a big surprise to me that I missed the Portuguese Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Cookie recipe from a couple years ago.

    Now I’ve found it and I wanted to share my technique. I hate rolling pins. My idea of pastry dough is something very rustic that bakes atop a lovely tarte tatin. But I like the look of rough edges on a cookie and have solved my problem by using a tortilla press with some parchment squares. Photo attached.

    On the cookies: delicious. I used about half as much lemon zest (I wanted the olives to shine) and, after the first batch came out, I sprinkled a few grains of fleur du sel on top, after pressing. Yum.

    These are great in the repertoire for when vegan friends come over. If they don’t like olives, they don’t come over.

    Thank you very much,

    Christine Houston
    Long Beach, CA

    Lemon Olive Cookies

    • David Leite says:

      Christine, I find your technique utterly ingenious. I don’t own a tortilla press, but I’m sure some of our rolling-pin phobic readers might. And what I think is great is you get a perfect, even thickness, which helps in the baking. I’m so glad you sent this to us. Thank you!

  2. Chris J says:

    Made these twice now; first with oil-cured olives which definitely gives the cookies a punch in the taste profile in terms of contrast. Deferring to my wife’s preference, I used canned, chopped black olives which were much more uniform in size (advantage) but lacked that extra punch. Regardless, the cookies were still tasty but with more of a lemon tang.

    I’m giving half of the pile to a Portuguese/Filipino friend via Macao, now living in the Bay Area.

    We have your new book in our store, The Spanish Table in Berkeley.

    • David Leite says:

      Chris, thanks for the kind words about the recipe. Yes, it definitely needs the oil-cured olives, as it offers (as you say) more of a punch. And tell your friendly Spanish Table I thank them mightily for stocking my book.

  3. Chris J says:

    This is what comes of boring Monday nights– and because these are so simple, I gave them another whirl. One problem I used twice as much sugar as called for.but then, too much sugar isn’t generally a problem when it comes to cookies– though it might blunt the olives to a degree.

    They also needed a little more olive oil to form a dough this time, but still good.

    My ‘pressing method’ is to lay the parchment out right in the baking pan and put the balls of dough directly on. I then cover them with the next piece of parchment, roll, and then use the topmost piece of parchment for the next batch. Worked just fine.

    • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

      Hi Chris,

      Thanks so much for divulging your pressing method. So glad that you liked the results!

      Beth

    • David Leite says:

      Chris, glad you tried them again. Did you use oil-cured olives? The extra sugar might have accounted for the need for a bit more olive oil.

  4. Jorge Bizarro says:

    Hi, David. Here in Brazil, the most easily available Olives are in salty, garlicky or orange water (“salmoura”). I wonder if one dries them with towel paper, gently squeeze the extra water out and give them a quick roast on the oven rinsed with olive oil (like toasting nuts) would produce the same result?

    • David Leite says:

      Jorge, we did a revision of the recipe for Lindsay for their brine-packed olives. You can find the recipe here. Please let me know how they turn out!

      • Jorge Bizarro says:

        Hi David,

        I made these ages ago and they were fine, tasty, and quite unusual. However, their “making-of” really got me to send a lengthy comment with some questions not only related to these biscoitos but to general baking and making doughs with olive oil. That is the reason of this late feedback.

        I made two batches in a different way regarding cookie shaping. So lets start:

        1 – The “toasting” of chopped salty water curated olives in the oven rinsed with olive oil worked nicely and it really does the job. This could be done in advance for a larger batch and the olives kept in oil for later use. I would have already ended-up baking more of these if this peculiar step might have been avoided.

        2 – Clumpiness: I followed exactly the recipe on mixing ingredients and ended up with a ‘clumpy’ dough (see pic. 1) that after some resting in the fridge tended to fall apart and started sweating the olive oil and kind of ‘expelling’ the stir-ins (in this case olive chunks). This is not new for me, the first olive oil cookies I’ve made from recipes without eggs or milk ended up like this after resting (if the dough takes eggs beaten with sugar, or milk, cream, ricotta, etc.. it becomes a bit gelatinous and easy to scoop). I kind of solved this problem in the past by freezing the oil and rubbing it to the flours + sugar and sometimes diminishing the amount of oil (from 2/3 cup to ½ for a dough with around 200g of flour) and adding some liquid to get the dough come together and because butter has butterfat and water… adding the liquid also prevents too much crumbliness. Anyway… as you can see, having a clumpy dough didn’t prevent the cookies from being shaped and baked!

        3 – Shaping, etc. I started using your method but got very irregular shapes (see 2 cookies on the left of pic. 2), then switched to making a ‘medal’ of dough, rolling it in the sugar, pressing it with the bottom of a mug (pic. 1) and finish the job with the rolling pin: this produced the other cookies on pic. 2. The second batch, because of dough lumpiness – I decided to give a try by shaping a medal and press only until they had like 1/4 inch, roll in sugar and bake. These produced nice cookies (pic. 3), but with a softer inside, so they weren’t entirely crunchy all over their surface.

        I think that the next time I’ll use the ‘slice and bake’ frozen log method for obtaining a more cookie shaped piece and thin enough for 100% crunchiness.

        Olive Cookies 1

        Olive Cookies 2

        Olive Cookies 3

        • David Leite David Leite says:

          Jorge, thanks for the detailed comments and the pictures, but I have to say I’m a bit confused.

          1. The recipe doesn’t call for the toasting of the olives. They are simply drained and chopped. The recipe calls for oil-cured olives, not olives in brine.

          2. The dough is meant to be used immediately, not refrigerated. The longer it sits, the more it will weep olive oil. The trick is to really work the oil into the dough. Now, you’re in Brazil, and the flour most likely is different there from the flour we have here in the States. I would hold back 2 tablespoons of the flour and see what the consistency of the dough is. If it can handle it, add another tablespoon and then the last, if you need it.

          3. The shapes of your cookies are PERFECT! We always joke when making these, “I wonder what continent shape we’ll get with this one?” These aren’t meant to be nice round cookies with even edges. The shapes of all of your cookies are no different than mine. The thicker cookies, while fine, aren’t what these are meant to be. Perhaps chopping oil-cured olives finer will allow you to roll them out thinner.

          • Jorge Bizarro says:

            Thanks for the tips! Over here we have limes, not lemons, and the local limes are not very strong flavoured, so the lemony taste doesn’t really show up in the baked goods. I now remembered that I added a bit of juice and that might have provided too much liquid. I’ve just made another fresh batch and this time the dough came out perfectly. Anyway:

            1 – In our local supermarkets we have only brine olives, so I did the adaptation as advised above and that is why I’ll always have to do the previous ‘oiling’ of the olives for baking these.

            2. OK now. This time I have used lime zest and just one tbsp juice. The lemony flavour is still missing. Next time I will try a local ‘wild lime’ that has orange coloured peel and a reputation of being quite sour. I have seen it in caipirinhas.

            3. Some cookies batches end up in the Bird Lodge cookie jar, and I do have literally a ‘bottle-neck’ problem to fit these cookies in it, now I’m using the bottom of a large mug to press the cookies and it worked fine, I now have thin crunchy cookies that slip very well into the cookie jar!

            Olive Cookies 4

  5. Sere says:

    Hi,

    Do you know the Portuguese name of these cookies? Thanks!

    • David Leite David Leite says:

      Sere, it’s Biscoitos Doces de Azeitonas Pretas e Limão. But this is a recipe I created based upon a cookie I had at the home of a Lisbon matron who is a great cook.

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