Brittle cookies made with black olives and white chocolate – an irresistible salty-sweet flavor combination!
Imagine you can finally sit down and relax in your favorite little cafe. After just a few minutes you get your hot cup of creamy cappuccino – served with a smile and a cookie. You take a sip of your warm coffee and take a bite of that little brittle cookie. It’s sweet, for sure, but it’s also a little salty. However, it’s not that salted caramel that you get everywhere nowadays. It’s something different. You curiously take another bite and recognize that slightly salty taste – it’s olive! Sun-dried olives and white chocolate – who would have thought that you would ever taste these two flavors together? Surprising, but it really works!
Somewhere on the edge of Portuguese tradition, chemistry and artificial intelligence
The idea for this dish came when browsing James Briscione’s book “The Flavor Matrix” and realizing that white chocolate and olives actually share chemical flavor compounds. Both of them consist partly of ethanol and octane. The more flavor compounds two ingredients share, the better their tastes work together. Octane is also shared with walnuts -come on- who doesn’t like crunchy nuts?
Putting olives into cookies sounds like a very strange idea, but it’s actually quite common in Portugal. The traditional Portuguese dish “Biscoitos Doces de Azeitonas Pretas e Limão” are sweet and savory cookies make with black olives and lemon. I took this as a start for my recipe and after some tinkering I figured out the perfect ratio between olives, chocolate and walnuts! While the cookies are traditionally made with olive oil, I found that taste quite heavy and savory. It didn’t really fit a cookie you would serve with coffee. By using butter you get a cleaner taste, a creamier mouthfeel and a more brittle cookie.
These are quite big cookies – the size of a coaster or saucer plate. Pretty much like the giant chocolate chip cookies that you see in so many different coffee places nowadays. Because of their size you will only be able to fit 4 of them on one baking tray. As you need to bake in batches, I recommend to keep the dough balls in the fridge in-between baking sessions.
Originally I wanted to write a muffin recipe with this rather uncommon flavor combination. However, as I was looking for new recipe ideas online I came across foodinspiration.com and saw that their Dutch version of the magazine was looking for a cookie 2.0 to trump the boring cookies that are currently being served with coffee.
These surprising cookies are really easy to make, quite forgiving for beginning cooks and have a nice brittle snap to them. The thinner you roll them out, the more crunchy and caramelized they will get. Texture-wise they are somewhere in-between shortbread and a gingersnap. The flavor combination of salty dried black olives, subtle white chocolate and crispy nuts, will definitely wow your guests and is something they will want to share with all their friends!
(For about 16 cookies, the size of a coaster or saucer plate)
- 50g sun-dried black olives, pitted (ca. 12-14)
- 60g white chocolate
- 30g walnuts, unsalted
- 160g flour
- 60g sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 70g butter, at room temperature
- 1 large egg
- Extra sugar
Let’s make cookies great again!
Preheat the oven to 180°c – fan works best for brittle and crunchy cookies.
Chop the olives, white chocolate and walnuts very thoroughly. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, olives, chocolate and walnuts in a bowl with a fork.
In a second bowl, cream the butter with a handheld mixer. Add the egg and keep whisking till the mixture is smooth. Add the flour mixture and stir with a fork until everything comes together and there are no more dry spots. Use your hands at the end to form one big ball of dough.
Fill a small little bowl with 2-3cm of sugar. Get a heaped spoonful of dough, form it to a walnut-sized ball and coat it in the sugar. Repeat making balls until all dough is gone.
Place a piece of parchment paper the size of a baking tray onto your kitchen counter. Put 4 dough balls onto it and place another piece of parchment paper on top. Roll out the dough balls with a rolling pin until they have the size of a coaster.
Remove the top layer of parchment paper. Transfer the parchment paper with the cookies on it onto a baking tray and bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
Fetch the baking tray from the oven, let it cool for 2 minutes, then transfer the cookies to a cooling rack with a spatula. Repeat the whole rolling-/baking procedure with the rest of the dough balls.
In a sealed container the cookies will stay crisp and fresh for several days.
Serve your cooled cookies with a delicious cup of strong coffee, cappuccino or espresso!
Have you ever had olives in a cookie before? Maybe you even had traditional Portuguese cookies on a holiday? Do you think the ration of olives, chocolate, and walnuts is off or do you think that olive oil still works better than butter? Share your thoughts and suggestions with us in the comments below!
If you want to learn more about flavors and how to combine them, check out my second book “Flavor Math” which is available digitally (PDF)!
PS: This recipe is inspired by the idea that olives share chemical flavor compounds with white chocolate and walnuts. That’s why they work so well together. Check out James Briscione’s book on food pairing if you are interested in digging deeper into this!