Christmas is almost here, and as with most religious holidays celebrated in Greece, food is a central aspect of the festive days.
There are two traditional deserts that are prevalent in Greek homes during these days: the almond based kourabiedes and the honey and cinnamon filled melomakarona. Though different in taste, these two treats accompany each other well and they are a must-have Christmas treat in every Greek home.
We asked Greek chef Peter Minaki of Kalofagas.ca and author of “Everything Easy Mediteterranean” for his original recipes and to lay out the process of making these delicious sweets.
For the syrup
7 cups sugar
8 cups water
2 cups honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 wide strips of orange peel
For the Dough:
5 cups pastry flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 cup coarsely ground walnuts
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground clove
1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
3/4 cups sugar
Beat until melted
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp. honey
Add baking soda into a glass with orange juice
1/2 cup orange juice
3/4 tsp. baking soda
Ground walnut topping
6 Tbsp. sugar
1 1/2 cups of ground walnuts
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground clove
Pre-heated 350F oven
- For the syrup, add all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil and lower to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes, take off the heat and allow to cool.
- Into a large bowl, add your wet ingredients (except for baking soda and orange juice). Mix for 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved.
- Combine the flour with the other dry ingredients. Once sugar is dissolved, add the baking soda/orange juice mixture then add dry to wet ingredients. Use you hands to mix the dough.
- Using your hands, roll the dough into small balls (about the size of apricots), then form them into quenelle shapes.
- Take your box grater (the side used to zest) and place a cookie on top of it. Press the cookie down a bit to form a grid pattern on the top of the cookie. Repeat this process for all the cookies.
- Place your cookies on a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake in a pre-heated oven (middle rack) for 30 minutes.
- Using a large slotted spoon or Spider, drop the hot cookies in batches into the coolsyrup for 10 minutes to absorb the syrup then flip for 3 minutes on the other side. Reserve on a cooling rack and repeat until all the cookies are dunked in syrup.
- For the topping, add the above ingredients in a bowl mix well with a spoon. Brush each cookie with the remaining syrup and then sprinkle each cookie top with the walnut topping. Allow to cool.
- Store in a cool, dry container for up to a month.
(recipe is for 2 baking trays/80 cookies)
1 lb. unsalted butter, clarified* and room temperature
1 cup icing sugar
2 egg yolks
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups of roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
1 shot of brandy
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 heaping Tbsp. of baking powder
5 cups of of all purpose flour, sifted
Extra icing sugar for powdering (about 2 cups)
- Using a mixer and a large bowl, cream your butter, oil and sugar. Add the egg yolks and continue to mix.
- Add your brandy to a large glass and then add your baking powder and stir it until dissolved. Now pour this mixture, along with the vanilla extract and continue mixing until blended in.
- Start kneading with hands the mixture and s-l-o-w-l-y add the flour to the mixture until all the flour has been absorbed. Add the almonds and knead them into the dough mixture.
- Using your hand, grab a piece of dough the size of a walnut and form them into the shape of choice crescents or patties). Place each formed cookie on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Repeat process until all dough has been shaped into cookies.
- Bake in a pre-heated 350F oven (middle rack) for 25 minutes for each batch. Allow the cookies to cool until you are able to handle ((on the tray is fine).
- Place about 2 cups of icing sugar in a large bowl and place the a cookie in the sugar and cover to coat. Place in your serving platter and repeat with the remaining cookies. Now place some more icing sugar in a sifter and generously dust the Kourabiedes with more icing sugar until well-coated.
The cookies can be stored in a sealed container, in a cool, dry place and they’ll keep for 3 months.
*Clarify the butter by melting it over medium heat then remove from heat and allow to cool in the fridge until solid. Now poke a hole into the solid butter and carefully pour out the water that’s underneath. What you have left is clarified butter (you may also use/buy ghee).