Rita Hayworth and the amazing Spanish cookie
This recipe is very typically Andalucian, but more specifically found in delicatessens and bakeries around the Aljarafe region of Seville and especially in a little town called “Castilleja de la Cuesta” (little castle on the side of the hill).The town is famous for the tortas of INES ROSALES or CANSINO (family descendants of Rita Hayworth, born Margarita Carmen Cansino) I am told that in this town you can smell the aromas of aniseed, cinnamon olive oil and bread wafting through the streets. As I am sure you all know Rita Hayworth was nicknamed "The Love Goddess." She did the sexy, open mouth Monroe smile before Monroe. She danced like a classy stripper. She had a body that dreams were wasted on. Rita Hayworth was one of the most desirable women in the world, and thanks to her movies, she still is.If you are in this league what better than to have an artesan cookie connection.Whether you are buying the true artesan product from a small independent bakery in Castilleja or from the ever booming Mercadona supermarket in your local Andalucian shopping mall, tribute is due to one woman Dona Ines Rosales,an entrepreneuse from Castilleja who was born in 1892 and died in 1934. She raised alone an entire industry with legitimate and accredited cakes carrying the Rosales name. From a humble start selling out of a basket, Ines Rosales is part of a gallery of Sevillhan women entrepreneuses who were ahead of their time. Ines Rosales cakes conquered the world, perhaps because of the propaganda attached to them by the global rise to fame of that other Castillejan woman, the ever famous Margarita Cansino, Rita Hayworth in the Age of Hollywood. Like Inés Rosales, Rita Hayworth became famous for a cake. In the Hollywood western "Gilda" it was Glenn Ford who received the biggest slap of the last century when he was on the receiving end of a flying cake. It was indeed the very same Ines Rosales / Cansino olive oil cake from Castilleja that flew across the silver screen and hit him.
The facsimiles of this cake are only poor imitations. Accept no substitute, buy it or make it. There is only one Ines Rosales cake in its intriguing wax paper packaging.They are so delicious! They are crispy and flaky, like a thin, crispy pie crust, and they are salty and sweet, with a burnished glaze of sugar on top. But their real addictive quality comes from the spice: there are little flecks of sweet anise studded into the torta.
These things are as addictive as crack. Spread them with curd cheese and honey,or serve them as an alternative wafer with home made ice cream.I call them sweet Spanish poppadoms. According to their website, the Ines Rosales tortas are over 24% olive oil! They also have a touch of sugar and spices, and they are made and flattened by hand by local women -you cant get much more artesanal than that. They have been made this way since 1910, and they have a rustic, delicate look and taste to them.And if you've had these and would like to try to replicate them at home, my cookie research led me to this recipe for Tortas de Aceite (Olive Oil Wafers) which is adapted from La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain by Penelope Casas.