Best Holiday Cookie Recipe: Easy and Elegant Greek Wedding Crescents
Greek Wedding Cookies: A Favorite Holiday Recipe for Any Special Occasion
These melt-in-your-mouth richer-than-shortbread Greek crescent shaped cookies called kourambiethes (aka kourabiedes) have been a personal favorite since I first tasted them many years ago.
The pure white color of these delectable confections is the traditional symbol of purity and of new beginnings in Greek culture, which explains their use at Christmas and New Years celebrations and for wedding and christening celebrations. Although similar to shortbread, Mexican wedding cookies, and Russian tea cakes, my favorite version is this Greek recipe.
I also like the fact that Greek Wedding Cookies are not only delicious; They are also easy to make, freeze beautifully, and make a lot so there's plenty to share with friends and family. They're also very popular at cookie exchanges and as gifts.
The holidays mean busy schedules and a flurry of activity from baking and shopping to gift wrapping and tree-trimming. The fact that these cookies are not only elegant, festive and delicious but are easy to make, easy to eat, easy to share, and freeze beautifully if baked ahead of time, makes them a winning recipe in my (cook) book.
Equipment Needed to Make Traditional Buttery Greek Crescent Christmas Cookies
Besides the ingredients listed below, you will need some standard kitchen items.
- A stand mixer or heavy duty hand mixer is essential
- You'll also need cookie sheet tins, jelly roll pans or similarly shallow containers
- A flour sifter
- Measuring cups
- A food processor or chopper to grind the almonds
- A wooden spoon
- Pot holders or oven mitts
- A sharp knife
- A cutting board
(Chef's hat is optional, but it does add a certain Je ne sais quoi, don't you think?)
This is from the company that supplies the best restaurants and culinary schools. An easy-care washable poly-cotton blend, this traditional chef's hat has a velcro closure in the back for a perfect fit. Also available in black.
Traditional and Novelty Chefs Hats for Adults and Kids Add a Professional and Fun Touch
And, I'd swear the cookies come out even better when you wear one!
(And kids love the colorful themed toques featuring their favorite characters and specially sized just for them!)
But don't take my word for it. Try it and see for yourself. Then let me know if you agree!
Handy Shopping List: Ingredients for Greek Wedding Cookies
Frozen Orange Juice Concentrate
Brandy or Whiskey (optional)
Whole Cloves (optional)
Don't Forget Santa
Greek Wedding Cookies are also one of Santa's favorites - so if you are leaving him cookies this year, these would be greatly appreciated.
Just be sure to hang a big enough stocking if you do -- Santa will definitely want to leave a few extra gifts to thank you for the delicious cookies!
- 1 pound sweet butter softened to room temperature or 1 1/4 lbs. salt butter-clarified*, Use a top quality butter. The best butter will impart the best flavor to these cookies.
- 1 egg yolk
- 1/4 cup confectioner's sugar
- 1/4 cup orange juice concentrate
- 1 ounce ouzo brandy or whiskey (optional)
- 3 3/4 cups flour blended with 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup ground almonds
- 1 box (1 pound) confectioners sugar for finishing
- Optional: 1 box whole cloves
You might want to plan on making the dough for these cookies a day ahead of baking them because the dough is soft and easier to work with after refrigerating a few hours or overnight. (See #5 in the Instructions section.)
Prep Time: 20-30 minutes
Total Time: About 1 1/2 hours
Serves: Makes at least 4 dozen cookies
*TO CLARIFY SALTED BUTTER:
Melt the butter in a saucepan on low heat watching carefully until it foams. It should take about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the butter brown. Remove from heat and let it stand.
After a couple of minutes the milk curds will settle to the bottom of the pan and the salt crystals will rise to the top. Skim off the crystals from the top and discard. Being careful not to disturb the white milk curds on the bottom of the pan, slowly pour the oil into a pyrex container or small bowl. Skim off any remaining salt crystals and store in refrigerator.
- Beat butter with electric mixer until very light and fluffy (from 10 to 20 minutes) Do not skimp on time ~ the lighter and fluffier the better, the better your cookies will be.
- Then, while still beating, gradually add the 1/4 cup sugar. Once sugar is blended in, add brandy or whiskey (if desired), orange juice concentrate and egg yolk. Continue beating until batter is about the same consistency as mayonnaise.
- Using a wooden spoon, stir flour and cornstarch mixture into the bowl and continue mixing.
- Then knead for 4 minutes, add the ground almonds, and knead another minute being sure the almonds are worked into the dough.
- Dough will probably be too soft to work with. Resist the temptation to add more flour. Just wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for one or two hours (or longer) and it will be ready to use. (I often will make the dough the day before baking the cookies)
We have gotten the best results using these cookie sheets for baking. It may be due to something about the oven we use, but the results are far more even and consistent when we use these, so if you have a problem with burnt bottoms or uneven browning, give these a try before replacing your oven.
6. Shape Cookies.
To make crescent shaped cookies: Shape dough into a long cylinder about 2 inches in diameter. Flatten cylinder slightly into an oval shape.
Place log on cutting board and slice log diagonally into 1/2 inch thick slices. Place slices on an ungreased cookie sheet, 1/2 inch apart, bending each slice into a crescent shape with slightly pinched ends as you place it on the sheet.
To make round snowball cookies: Scoop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls and roll into balls. You can make these bite sized or a bit larger as you prefer.
Place on ungreased cookie sheet about 1/2 inch apart. If desired, you can add a clove in the center of each one.
7. While cookies are baking
Sift confectioners sugar into a jelly roll pan until the bottom is covered with a thick layer of sugar. (NOTE: You will probably need at least 2 large (full sheet) jelly roll pans since this recipe makes a lot of cookies.)
When cookies are done, gently transfer them (while still hot) with a spatula to the jelly roll pan, placing them side by side (but not touching) in a single layer. (Do not let the cookies cool before doing this. The sugar will not stick and form a layer around them if the cookies are not hot enough.) Sift remaining sugar over the cookies, thoroughly covering the tops and sides with sugar.
Allow cookies to remain in the sugar at least until they are completely cooled, although longer is even better. I leave them in the sugar for at least 6 hours and sometimes overnight as the cookies are even better after sitting snug in their sweet bed a day or two.
These Festive Cookie Boxes Are Great for Gifting!
Available in a variety of festive scenes, these boxes come with convenient gift tags and are just the right size for gifting. Add a bow and voila! these easy to fold and seal boxes are ready to impress!
To Freeze Greek Wedding Cookies
Cookies can be frozen by layering in an air tight plastic freezer container with wax paper between layers. They will keep several months -- That is, if you can resist eating them for that long!
Did you like them?
Have You Tried Kourambiethes?
Variations of Greek Wedding Cookies Recipe
1. You can substitute walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts or pistachios for the almonds.
2. Instead of cognac or whisky you can use amaretto, brandy, scotch, sambuca or just about any other spirit.
3. Instead of orange juice concentrate, you can use 1 teaspoon of vanilla, almond, orange or lemon extract.
4. Kourambiethes are traditionally made with ouzo and rosewater. The video below will show you that version.
5. Some recipes add ground cloves and/or cinnamon or even coriander. I prefer them without spices, but I've included a video below that will show you how to do that if you wish to.
6. You can add a whole clove in the center of each cookie before baking as shown in the photo that accompanies the recipe above.
Making Greek Wedding Cookies for Christmas
DId You Know?
The world's first recorded cookbook was written in Greece by Archestratos in 330 BCE, during the reign of Alexander the Great.
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