Christmas in Greece means one thing. Well two actually: kourabiedes and melomakarona, sweet treats traditionally made during this time of year. The former is a buttery, shortbread-like cookie filled with crunchy almonds and covered in a thick blanket of powdered sugar, while the other is syrupy and soft, typically sprinkled with crushed walnuts.
Both of these treats have their die-hard fans who lock horns every holiday season in an attempt to establish the superiority of their preferred cookie. And of course, there are any number of more modern variations, such as chocolate-covered versions of each.
But we are not ones to play favorites, and we like to keep things traditional so below are recipes for classic kourabiedes and melomakarona.
Preparation / Waiting / Cooking time: About 30 mins each
Ingredients (for about 1 kg of kourabiedes)
- 250g of butter
- 1/2 cup of powdered sugar and plenty extra to dust when completed
- 2 tbsp of brandy
- 3 tbsp of rosewater
- 3-3.5 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 2 pinches of vanilla powder
- 1/2 cup of roasted almonds coarsely chopped
Beat the butter very well in a food processor until it goes light and frothy (this takes about 10 mins). Add the powdered sugar and continue beating.
Then add the brandy, rosewater and gradually the flour with the baking powder and the vanilla (don’t add in all of the flour at once as you made not need all of it). Finally add the almonds and stop beating.
Preheat the oven to 170° C (340° F). Mould the kourabiedes into your desired shape (round, half-moons, etc.) and place them on a metal baking sheet covered in baking paper.
Bake the kourabiedes for about 30 minutes. Remove them from the oven and place them on a large platter. Leave them to cool thoroughly and then dust them with plenty of powdered sugar.
In contrast to melomakarona which don’t need the dough to be mixed well (just enough to mix the ingredients otherwise they become dense) the dough for kouriabedes needs to be mixed very well to keep them light and fluffy.
Choose a good quality butter for them to have a nicer taste and aroma.
If you’re feeling experimental try substituting the almonds with hazelnuts or Aegina pistachios.
Preparation Time: 1 hour; Baking Time: 20′; Waiting Time: 3-7 hours
Ingredients (for 60-80 pieces)
For the Dough
- 1 cup olive oil, plus extra to grease the baking tray
- 1 cup corn oil
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp orange zest (unwaxed)
- 1 tsp lemon zest (unwaxed)
- 1 tsp mandarin orange zest (unwaxed)
- 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 cup of brandy
- 1/2 cup coarse semolina
- 2 tbsp fine semolina
- 1 kg of bread flour (strong flour)
- 200 g walnuts, ground into small pieces to sprinkle on top
For the Syrup
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups honey
- The peel from 1 orange (unwaxed)
- The peel from 1 lemon (unwaxed)
- The peel from 1 mandarin orange (unwaxed)
- 1 cinnamon stick
Making the Dough
In a large bowl mix the oil, sugar, cinnamon and zest. Dissolve the baking soda in the orange juice and pour it into the bowl. Add the baking powder and the brandy.
Gradually sprinkle in the semolina while stirring well. Finally add the flour and knead the mixture into a homogenous dough with your hands.
Preheat the oven to 160° C (320° F). Grease the baking tray well, alternatively use one or two large non-stick baking trays. Shape the dough into small, oval cookies and spread them out on the baking tray.
Bake them for 20 minutes with the oven fan on. Then remove the cookies from the oven, turn them over and let them cool for at least 30 minutes.
Preparing the Syrup
Add all of the ingredients into a saucepan and put it on the stove on a medium heat.
Boil the syrup for 6-7 minutes after it comes to a rolling boil. Skim off the froth and remove the syrup from the heat. Remove the peels and the cinnamon stick.
Pour the syrup on the upside down and cool melomakarona and let them absorb the syrup for about 1 hour. Then flip them back over and allow them to absorb more syrup. Depending on how syrupy you want them, leave them for 2-6 hours.
When ready, place them on a platter and sprinkle them with the crushed walnut.
If you want your melomakarona to have a walnut filling, as you are shaping them, push half a walnut into each cookie. You will need roughly 100 g of walnuts split in the middle.
After two hours, the melomakarona will have absorbed plenty of syrup, but will still remain crunchy.