MAKES: About 3 dozen cookies

TIME: 40 minutes

Another not-too-sweet cookie (perfect for glazing), only this time a hint of saffron gives the cookies a gorgeous gold color, and their cakey texture will remind you of an elegant vanilla wafer. The olive oil is a fresh-tasting alternative to butter, even if you’re not looking to cut down on saturated fat.

Small pinch (about 1/8 teaspoon) crumbled saffron threads

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Pinch salt

3/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 eggs

2 teaspoons grated or finely minced orange zest

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, other orange liqueur, or orange juice

Preheat the oven to 350В°F. Combine 1 tablespoon boiling water with the saffron in a medium bowl, stir, and steep for a few minutes. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Add the sugar and olive oil to the saffron mixture and beat until light, a minute or two. Add the eggs and continue beating until creamy and fluffy, another couple of minutes. Beat in the orange zest and liqueur. Gently stir the liquid mixture into the dry one, just until well combined.

Use 2 teaspoons to drop mounds of dough about 3 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake until lightly browned on the bottom, 12 to 15 minutes. Immediately transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling. Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature for no more than a day or two.

Variations

Cardamom-Pistachio Cookies. Almost any nut oil, nut, and spice will work in place of the cardamom-pistachio combo (or just stick with the olive oil): Substitute 1 tablespoon ground cardamom for the saffron and add 1/2 cup ground pistachios. Skip the boiling water/steeping in Step 1. Proceed with the recipe. Sprinkle the pistachios on the cookies and gently press them into the dough before baking.

Date Olive Oil Cookies. Omit the saffron. Substitute 1/2 cup whole wheat flour for 1/2 cup of the all-purpose flour if you like. Add 3/4 cup chopped dates. In Step 1, steep the dates in water instead of the saffron and substitute the whole wheat flour in the dry ingredients if you’re using it. Proceed with the recipe.

Chile-Olive Oil Cookies. Omit the saffron. Add 1 to 2 tablespoons cored, seeded, and minced jalapeo or other hot fresh chile or cayenne to taste. Skip the boiling water/steeping in Step 1.

Cinnamon Chocolate Cookies. Use cinnamon instead of the saffron; coarsely chop 1/2 cup dark (semisweet) chocolate (about 3 ounces) and melt it. In Step 1, omit the water and combine the cinnamon and chocolate in a small bowl and stir well. Use this mixture in place of the saffron water in Step 1. Proceed with the recipe.