Kourabiethes and Melomakarona - Two Greek Christmas Cookies Recipes
A Bakery Somewhere in Greece
Traditional Greek Christmas Cakes
Despite their economic woes this Christmas as they have done every Christmas and New Year, homes throughout Greece will be making these traditional Greek Christmas Cakes. Homes will have that Christmas smell which reminds all Greeks that Christmas is a time to forget their economic troubles and do what Greeks do best, laugh, eat and make merry with other family members in their home villages.
Greek Christmas celebrations are not only marked by the glistening decorations and the gifts we in the west are used to, but also with the Christmas table adorned with the two holiday season traditional cakes, Kourabiethes shortbread and Melomakarona cookies. In Greek daily life, these sweets are hardly ever served as a dessert. They are usually eaten in pastry shops, or purchased at bakeries, or made in small enough quantities to be enjoyed at home, or made for very special occasions to offer to guests and family, or to eat themselves. Since Christmas time and the New Year holiday season is a truly "special occasion," Greek homes will be filled with the smells of these fantastic baked treats.
As these sweets have a long shelf life they can be made in early December and will last all through the Christmas holiday season, through the New Year and on to ‘Photon’ the religious festival of light which is celebrated on January 6, which incidentally is the day you should take down the Christmas decorations. So with these traditional Greek cakes entertaining is made easy, for when guests drop by during the holiday season the cakes will be ready to serve, with coffee or just as a simple treat for your visitors.
Kourabiethes are prepared everywhere Greece, with slight variants particularly the actual shape of the cakes, depending on the province. But the one variant that never changes is that these mouth melting cakes are always sprinkled with icing sugar. Kourabiedes are Greek celebration cookies and as they are virginal white they've become a favourite at weddings and baptisms, as well as at holidays and other special occasions such as Christmas and the new year. Originally made as a New Year cookie, they have now become favourites for the entire holiday season.They can be made with walnuts or hazelnuts, but also there are variations made with toasted almonds, and there is dairy-free or egg-free version as well.
Mix the butter and sugar in a mixer until it begins to turn white. Add the egg yolks one at a time and the brandy. Prepare the flour by mixing the baking powder and baking soda into the flour. Add the flour progressively into the butter mix, until you have dough that is neither too soft nor too firm. Stir in the almonds while adding the flour.
Take small amounts of the dough and gently roll the dough around in your hands and make small quarter moon shapes.
Arrange the round biscuits on a well greased pan and flatten ever so slightly on top. Bake at 180C until golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with ouzo for a gorgeous Christmas perfume.
Place warm cakes on a tray covered in sifted icing sugar. Filter extra icing sugar on top of each cake, making sure they are completely covered.
2 cups of softened butter
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ teaspoon of baking soda
3-4 cups of flour
2 cups of icing sugar
1 teaspoon of brandy
1 cup of chopped, roasted almonds
Makes approx 25 cookies
At Christmas time the Greek houses are filled with the delicate smell of freshly baked cookies of which centre stage in the cookie stakes belongs to Melomakarona. They are the quintessential Christmas cookie for Greeks flavoured with orange, lemon, cinnamon, cloves, walnuts and honey.
Melomakarona are a uniquely Greek combination of walnuts and honey. The origin of the Melomakarona is not Greek however, that accolade belongs to the Phoenicians back in antiquity. Hence the reason that Melomakarona are still called Phoenikia in some circles. This suggests that these cookies probably did originate in Phoenicia. As the Phoenicians were seafaring people and often did battle with ancient Greeks it is little wonder they left their culinary mark in Greece. The word Melomakarona is a derivative of two words - Meli and Makaroni. The Greek word Meli means honey which is related to Melomakarona as they are cookies dipped in honey. The word Makaroni is a Greek/Latin word which means a doughy material. Hence the word Melomakarona simply means a lump of dough dipped into honey. So as Greece has survived and the Phoenicians haven't the long history of the Melomakarona now means that the Greeks have laid claim to these cookies and evolved them into traditional Christmas and New Year treats.
Line two flat baking trays with baking paper and preheat the oven to 180C.
With an electric mixer, mix oil, sugar, 1/2 cup of orange juice and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice on the high speed until thick and creamy. Add egg yolk and brandy. Mix for 5 minutes. Sift flour, ½ teaspoon cinnamon and clove over oil mixture. Mix in gently to make a light doughy texture.
Shape small sections of dough into oval shapes with hands. Place on prepared trays. Use the back of fork spikes to make impressions along the length of each biscuit. Bake until firm to touch. Allow to cool.
Prepare syrup by mixing ingredients in a saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar has dissolved. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until syrup thickens slightly.
Dip cooled biscuits, one at a time, into hot syrup for about 30 seconds, turning over often until well coated. Sprinkle walnuts mixed with what's left of the cinnamon over the biscuits. Allow to cool.
1 cup of extra virgin olive oil
½ a cup white sugar
2 freshly squeezed oranges
½ freshly squeezed lemon
1 egg yolk
½ cup of brandy
4 cups of flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
½ a teaspoon of bicarbonate soda
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup of finely chopped walnuts
1 cup of white sugar
½ a cup of honey
½ a cup of boiling water
1 cinnamon Stick
3 whole cloves
1 inch lemon rind
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Makes Approx 40 cookies
Honey Drenched Melomakarona
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Greek Christmas Cakes
|Serving size: 1 cookie|
|Calories from Fat||108|
|% Daily Value *|
|Fat 12 g||18%|
|Saturated fat 3 g||15%|
|Unsaturated fat 9 g|
|Carbohydrates 44 g||15%|
|Sugar 23 g|
|Fiber 1 g||4%|
|Protein 3 g||6%|
|Cholesterol 6 mg||2%|
|Sodium 96 mg||4%|
|* The Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, so your values may change depending on your calorie needs. The values here may not be 100% accurate because the recipes have not been professionally evaluated nor have they been evaluated by the U.S. FDA.|
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