Several years ago, Adam and I house-sat for our friends Kerry and Matt while they were overseas. Apart from leaving me an impressively stocked pantry and cupboards bursting with cookware, Kerry also left out a large pile of Delicious magazines (my first taste of my new favourite cooking magazine) and a pile of books. Among the pile, I found a book called On Rue Tatin by Susan Herrmann Loomis. Although I had a pile of my own books to read, I quickly became immersed in the world of Susan, an American who spent a year as a chef in Paris and then returned several years later with her husband to buy a 300-year-old house in Louviers, Normandy.
Susan is an excellent writer and her tale of life in France was beautifully told, interspersed with delicious recipes that reflected the best of Normandy produce and the love that the French have for good food. Her second book, Tarte Tatin, continues the story of her life in Louviers and the cooking school that Susan has opened, where visitors stay for a week of cooking classes and meet with local producers and artisans. I highly recommend either of these books, although be warned that it may induce feelings of envy! Susan also has an excellent website: http://www.onruetatin.com/
In her book, Susan featured a recipe for les scourtins des vieux moulins (olive cookies from vieux moulins), a very old recipe from a family who produced olive oil at Les Vieux Moulins, an ancient olive mill in Provence. The recipe is an intriguing mix of sweet (icing sugar) and salty (olives) and I've been longing to try it since I first read it. Of course, like many of my clippings, it got put aside until recently when I decided to whip up a batch for morning tea. I'm sorry I waited so long now! These biscuits are totally addictive and, if it wasn't for the fact that I was making these for others, I would have devoured the whole lot on the spot! Enjoy.
OLIVE COOKIES FROM VIEUX MOULINS
125g unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup (110g) pure icing sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 1/3 cups (200g) plain flour
1/2 cup (100g) cured olives, such as kalamata or nicoise, pitted and coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper.
Cream the butter until soft and pale yellow. Mix in the icing sugar until blended, then drizzle in the olive oil until combined. Add the flour and a pinch of fine sea salt, then mix gently but thoroughly until the dough is smooth. Add the olives and mix until they are thoroughly incorporated into the dough.
Place a piece of baking paper on the bench and put the dough in the middle. Cover with another piece of baking paper and roll out the dough until it is about 0.5cm thick (the dough is very sticky and the paper will make it possible to roll out). Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.
Cut out 5cm rounds of dough and put them about 1.5cm apart on the prepared baking trays. Bake until golden (about 15 minutes), then cool on wire racks. Gather the leftover dough trimmings into a ball and roll out into a 2.5cm diameter log. Wrap well in plastic wrap and refrigerate until you're ready to bake. Then cut off 0.5cm-thick rounds from the log (this avoids over-rolling the dough) and bake.