I want to make some "Tortas de Algarrobo" cookies like the ones they make in my grandmother's village. The ones I like are tender but the ones I make are crunchy. How should I modify the ingredients or preparation to get a tender cookie? No eggs please.

The ingredients are: wheat flour, sugar, extra virgin olive oil (24%), aniseed, cinnamon, almonds and yeast.

Each cookie has one almond on top.

The nutritional facts are. For each 100g:

  • 433 kcal
  • 22.6g fat
  • 57.1g carbohidrates
  • 24.1g sugar
  • 0.65g salt
  • 4.8g protein

The ones I make are crunchy and they are based on this recipe:

  • 60 gr of baker's yeast
  • 1 kg of wheat flour
  • 500 gr of sugar
  • 1/2 liter of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of aniseeds
  • 1 glass of hard liquor
  • Whole roasted almonds
  • Mineral water

Preparation Mode

  1. Slip the yeast into a little warm water and add it to the flour, along with the sugar.
  2. In a pan, heat a little oil. When it smokes remove it from the fire and add the aniseed, stirring a bit so that it is evenly roasted. Pour it also on the flour.
  3. Go slowly incorporating the rest of the ingredients, while you knead, except the almonds. Add a little water if you see that the dough is too compact.
  4. Let rest at least 24 hours in the refrigerator and form cookies of about 100 gr each. Give them round shape and not too thin. Bake for about ten minutes at 180 ºC, making sure they don't burn. Let cool in a rack.

The secret of Algarrobo This is an approximation of the recipe of the famous "Tortas de Algarrobo", as the genuine and original formula is a secret jealously guarded by the grandmothers and confectioners of the town.

La cocina de La Axarquía y sus fiestas by Pablo Castro

enter image description here

  • Does the dough rise the way you make it?
    – Willk
    Feb 2, 2019 at 1:04
  • I believe that I have found the original recipe. However, the .pdf came from a dodgy site (and probably violates all kinds of copyright laws), so I am not going to link directly to that source. If someone who actually reads/speaks Spanish can do better, it would likely be quite welcome. Oct 23, 2023 at 21:55

2 Answers 2


Your yeast is not happy. Maybe it is the liquor.

I think a dough that calls for yeast should rise. Because otherwise, why the yeast and the resting? Dough that has risen will be tender. Dough that has not risen could be crunchy. Of course always proof your yeast - see if it bubbles in some warm water and sugar. If it bubbles it is alive. Dead yeast does nothing.

But I am suspicious of the glass of hard liquor added to the dough before rising. I have heard of vodka pie crust (which does not rise) and I have heard of beer bread but never spirits in dough. Ethanol suppresses yeast because it is a waste product of yeast.

Try your recipe without the hard liquor. Or if you really like the flavor of the liquor, cook it a little in a saucepan to drive off the ethanol before adding it. The ethanol will all be gone after baking anyway. I suspect your yeast will be happier without the ethanol. Your dough will rise and you will have tender cookies.

  • 3
    Note that alcohol doesn't all boil off if simmered, let alone if baked. But one issue might be in the ridiculous unit of measure: "1 glass". There's a factor of over 20 between my smallest and my largest glasses. A pint of hard liquor is highly unlikely but of the recipe wants a shot glass and the OP uses a tumbler or a wine glass, that could make the difference between adding flavour and killing the yeast
    – Chris H
    Feb 24, 2023 at 14:04
  • @ChrisH the edited question has 1 vasito de aguardiente which would be 1 small glass of aguardiente in translation, if my very limited Spanish is correct. I think this sort of drink would normally be served in small glasses, if not shot glasses, as a digestif, so I think you are correct on the volume being the issue here. Not to mention that the 1/2 litre of oil and 500 g of sugar in the recipe are all contributing to something that won't rise very much.
    – bob1
    Nov 8, 2023 at 3:38
  • @bob1 it certainly demonstrates that we should always see the original recipe even if it's not in English. I'd need a dictionary to read this one (the Spanish is simple enough but I lack the vocabulary) but would prefer that to machine translation. I think a vasito is a bit bigger than a shot glass, for which Wikipedia gives Vaso de chupito. Google is being really unhelpful, ignoring my quotation marks, but a modern sherry glass (they've grown over the years) our small wine glass would seem about right. Still a silly way to measure something with a significant effect on the recipe
    – Chris H
    Nov 8, 2023 at 7:13

The Spanish word "levadura" is a generic term for a leavening agent, which includes yeast, baking powder, baking soda, and cream of tartar. To avoid ambiguity, it is recommended to specify the type of "levadura" needed. For example, "levadura de panadería" refers to yeast, while "levadura en polvo" or "levadura química" refers to baking powder. It is also worth noting that in Spain, "levadura fresca" refers to fresh yeast in cubes, while "levadura de panadero" refers to dry yeast in powder.

When water is added to flour, it starts a chemical process that leads to gluten development. Gluten is formed when the proteins glutenin and gliadin combine with water and form long, curly chains that bond with one another. As the dough is kneaded, the gluten becomes more stretchy and elastic. The gluten strands trap air bubbles produced by the yeast during fermentation, which causes the dough to rise. The yeast feeds on the sugars in the flour and releases carbon dioxide, which gets trapped in the gluten web. The more gluten is developed, the more gas it can hold, leading to a higher rise. Oil cannot replace water in this process, as yeast requires water to activate and become viable for baking. Oil does not hydrate the flour and does not contribute to gluten development. Therefore, it is not recommended to use oil instead of water when making dough with yeast.

The ingredients were probably copied from a Spanish website and included "levadura" which was wrongly translated to yeast when it should have been baking powder. The recipe from the book makes the same mistake using water and yeast when the original Anise Seed Oil Cookies from Carmen Lupiañez don't include water, assuming the provided ingredients are correct.

Baking powder is activated by moisture and heat, so it helps the cookies rise and puff up properly in the oven. Baking soda needs an acidic ingredient like lemon juice to activate, which this recipe doesn't have. And yet the recipe from "Pastelería Ramos", which is another very popular brand, uses sourdough starter and baking soda according to this video in which they showcase the ingredients.

Here is a recipe for Anise Seed Oil Cookies using baking powder instead of yeast, no water, and no liquor:


  • 4 cups (500g) of wheat flour
  • 1 1/4 cups (250g) of sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups (300ml) of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped raw almonds
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) of aniseeds
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) of ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) of baking powder
  • Whole roasted almonds for topping


  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
  2. In a pan, heat the oil. When it smokes remove it from the fire and add the aniseed, stirring a bit so that it is evenly roasted. Let it cool down.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together the wheat flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and crushed almonds.
  4. Pour the oil on the rest of the ingredients and mix well.
  5. Divide dough into small balls of around 70g, and flatten into disks onto a parchment lined baking sheet.
  6. Press a whole roasted almond into the center of each disk.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  8. Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
  9. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

Tips to obtain even more tender cakes:

  1. Use pastry or cake flour instead of normal flour, as it has less gluten content and is special for more tender baked goods.
  2. Be careful not to over-mix the batter. Excess mixing will continue developing the gluten strands into an elastic web, making the crumb tougher rather than tender. Gently mix just until the ingredients are hydrated and combined, but don't beat air into them vigorously. Only mix enough to have a homogeneous batter that is ready for baking. Over-mixing would make the cakes chewier in texture rather than soft and tender.
  3. Incorporate 4 egg yolks along with the other liquid ingredients. Egg yolks add more moisture.
  4. Replace 50 grams of flour with corn starch. The starch increases the crumb moisture making it more tender.
  5. Use milk instead of part of the oil to soften the texture.
  6. Bake the cakes at a medium-low temperature, around 160-170ºC so they cook more slowly and turn out more spongy.
  7. When the cakes are ready, cover them while still hot with a damp kitchen towel. The steam will soften the crumb.

The following are some pictures of the industrial version of "Tortas de aceite Carmen Lupiañez" usually known as "Tortas de Algarrobo". There is also a premium version that has an almond on top and as far as I know are only sold on Algarrobo, Spain.

enter image description here enter image description here enter image description here

The ingredients for this cookies can be read in English.

GB: Olive oil cake.
Wheat flour, sugar, extra virgin olive oil (22%), aniseed, cinnamon, almonds and yeast. May contain traces of soy and mustard.

And the nutritional facts are slightly different than for the premium version:

Nutrition facts per 100g
Energy value 1985 KJ/475 Kcal
Fat 23 g
Of which saturated 3,0 g Carbohydrates 60 g
Of which sugars 20 g
Dietary fibres 2,1 g Protein 5,8 g Salt 0,59 g

So, I was mistaken; the cookies are made with yeast instead of baking powder. However, they still do not contain water or liquor, as the recipe from the book La cocina de La Axarquía y sus fiestas by Pablo Castro suggests. But I agree that if yeast is used, it should be in combination with water. Therefore, you may want to consider adjusting the amount of water and olive oil.

  • The original post contains a reference. Googling the reference finds the book this was taken from. The first ingredient is "60 gr de levadura de panadería". I added a screenshot to the original question. Oct 23, 2023 at 21:52

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