A simple and delightfully sweet and crispy cookie, that crossed the Mediterranean from Oran in Algeria to Sète (near Montpellier) in the south of France in the 70’s and whose official invention and evocative naming only came about at the end of the 90’s !
The French and/or Europeans who were born and raised in Algeria, until their return to France after Algeria’s independence were referred to as the “pieds-noirs” (or black-feet) and their cuisine evolved as a mixture of cultures and customs, like this recipe.
This sugar-coated cookie, made of flour, white or rosé wine, sugar, light olive oil and typically flavored with some vanilla and sometimes orange blossom extracts is a relatively recent invention.
It’s name “zézette”, humorously referring to its shape, was coined by clients purchasing these “little willy” shaped cookies and seems to have stuck.
About a year and half ago, I was in Montpellier for an organized international meeting and event between France and Africa and the caterers proposed these little cookies with coffee. I adored them and when I asked what they were called, the answer was always accompanied by a smile and a giggle.
I was back in Montpellier about 2 weeks ago and these delights reappeared on our lunch table, as we were sitting in the sun under a parasol, accompanying some home-made ice cream and a coffee. I had no choice but to make them at home, once back in my kitchen in Paris.
My version is a simple as the original but I like to add some malt extract powder to the flour which makes all baked goods taste better and I add extra orange blossom water, alongside the vanilla, because it seems logical that orange blossoms are always more readily available in Northern Africa as well as Southern Europe, than vanilla beans are, travelling from so far away.
The cookies are usually finger-shaped but I prefer the look of the tapered logs, becoming evening crispier and more golden at the ends.
I made quite a big batch, since they can be stored for so very long, in a tin, since there’s no milk, nor egg, nor butter in them.
I’ll usually crunch on one or two with a coffee or tea and I think you should too ! … :)