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Find comfort with Greek-inspired olive oil cookies

Greek-Style Olive Oil Sesame Cookies get a healthy boost from whole wheat flour, olive oil and sesame seeds. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg / Washington Post)
Greek-Style Olive Oil Sesame Cookies get a healthy boost from whole wheat flour, olive oil and sesame seeds. (Stacy Zarin Goldberg / Washington Post)
By Ellie Krieger Special to the Washington Post

Cooking has a way of grounding a person in uncertain times, and baking can be especially comforting. That soothing effect is not just in the eating; it’s built into the baking process – the in-the-moment focus needed to measure ingredients, the tactile pleasure of working with the batter and the homey fragrance that fills the kitchen as the oven does its part.

These scrumptious cookies – my take on the Greek version, Kolourakia Lathiou – offer all of those comforts in a more healthful way than most other baked goods because they are very lightly sweetened, made with whole wheat flour and contain olive oil rather than butter.

The oil gives the cookie a delightfully crunchy, crumbly texture and subtle savoriness. Seasoned with orange essence, cinnamon, cloves and a shot of brandy, the cookies’ flavor is warm and fragrant, and a coating of nutty sesame seeds delivers extra substance as well as a festive flair. With so little sugar in them, they could be considered more of a decadent biscuit that a cookie, but if you prefer something a bit sweeter, increase the sugar to half a cup.

Besides enjoying making these, you’ll be glad to have them alongside a mug of coffee or tea to take the edge off the afternoon.

Greek-Style Olive Oil Sesame Cookies

1 orange

1/2 cup olive oil (one that is light in flavor and color)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

2 tablespoons brandy or cognac

2 1/2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour (or 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and 1 cup whole-wheat flour)

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup white sesame seeds

Position the rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using a fine grater, zest the orange until you have 1 teaspoon of zest. Squeeze 1/3 cup of juice from the orange into a large bowl. Reserve the rest of the fruit for another use.

To the bowl, add the oil, sugar, brandy and zest and whisk until the sugar is dissolved.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cloves and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ones in several batches, stirring at first with a spoon or spatula to incorporate. When the dough becomes difficult to stir with the last additions of dry ingredients, use your hands to knead the dough to incorporate. Cover the bowl and let the dough rest for 10 minutes.

Spread the sesame seeds on a wide plate. Roll the dough into heaping tablespoon-size balls. Roll each ball in the sesame seeds, pressing a bit with your fingers so that they adhere, then place on the baking sheet and flatten slightly with the palm of your hand so that each disk is about 2 inches in diameter and 1/4-inch high. Place the balls about 1 inch apart on the baking sheet; they will not spread much.

Bake for about 30 minutes, until golden and crunchy; then transfer to a wire rack. The cookies will crisp further as they cool. Serve at room temperature.

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