The smell of baking Kourabiedes marks the beginning of the Christmas season in many Greek households. In some regions of Greece, the recipe will call for sheep’s or goat’s milk butter, while other Greek recipes substitute olive oil for the butter. This recipe uses regular sweet unsalted butter made from cow’s milk.
Kourabiedes are known outside of Greece in the Western World as Almond Shortbread Cookies, but they are almost too substantial to be called a cookie.
In the Greece of the 18th to early 20th Century, sweets, particularly those made with butter were a luxury item (butter and sugar were expensive) and were reserved for the high holidays, weddings and special occasions.
Like much of Greece’s gastronomy the origin and ownership of foods is an open debate. Although Kourabiedes (Kourabies when single) are Greek, it’s twin or derivative is also found in Turkey and yes it’s referred to as, what else Kourabiey, In Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, and Israel, it’s Ghoreibiey, Albanians call it Gurabieh, Qurabiah in Azerbaijan, the Serbes call it Kourabieh and as you can derive with a play on the letters and pronunciation, our Kourabiedes reside and are claimed by all our neighbors. It seems that maybe Alexander the Great just dropped too many of these gems on his trail. Maybe because they are so irresistibly delicious and addictive, but whatever the case it’s Christmas and that’s what we bake amongst Melomakarona, Koulourakia and you name it. It is Greek Christmas and it would not be Christmas in a Greek home if there were no Kourabiedes baking and adorning our festive tables. What would be going to someone’s home to wish them well, or sing the Kalanda and there was no Kourabiedes to devour? Well, it would not be Christmas and here is the recipe, so let’s get busy.
Prep Time: 45 Minutes
Cook Time: 15 – 25 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes about 40 plus cookies
- 1 lb. unsalted butter (room temperature) Very Important that the butter is room temperature. Otherwise, your butter will not cream as it needs to
- 1 lb. chopped almonds (lightly toasted in your oven)
- 3 cups confectioner’s (powdered) sugar, separated (3 x 1 cup) sifted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp Brandy or Ouzo (preferably Brandy my choice)
- 4-5 cups flour (sifted)
It is important to thoroughly sift all the dry ingredients. This makes the dough fluffy and airy.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Beat the butter slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. You may use an electric mixer for this on a medium-low speed setting. You need to take the time and cream your butter, otherwise, this is a lost cause. Use a rubber spatula to check your butter is creamy and fluffy almost like marshmallow fluff and snow white.
- Slowly add the 1 cup confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, baking powder, brandy/ouzo and a little of the flour. Make sure you take your time and everything is well combined.
- Continue to beat, slowly adding the chopped almonds and more flour, little flour at a time until a soft dough forms. Scrape the sides of the bowl periodically to make sure all ingredients are well mixed.
- You want the dough to be pliable and easy to form without being too greasy/buttery. You may not need to use all the flour or rarely you may need to add some more flour. You want to have a dry non-greasy playdough consistency in your hands.
- Roll the dough into crescent shapes (or any other shape you like). Use a little less than 2 tbsp of dough per Kourabie.
- Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for 15-25 minutes in a 350-degree oven till lightly golden.
- Remove Kourabiedes from the oven.
- Allow to cool, then dust with the remaining 2 cups of confectioner’s sugar. They need to be generously coated in the sugar, not just a little dusting. You may use more powdered sugar if you wish.
- Place each Kourabie in its own “baking cup” or whichever serving method makes you happy.
This recipe is brought to you by Sofia Karakasidou, chef/owner of Kuzina by Sofia, Traditional and Modern Greek Cuisine, Cherry Hill, NJ.