The scents of kourabiedes and melomakarona signal the Christmas season in Greece. Their sweet aromas drift through households, dividing families between Team Kourabiedes and Team Melomakarona. Though many secretly harbor affection for both cookies!
Imagine plates heaped with snow-white kourabiedes and nutty-brown melomakarona, waiting to greet guests with holiday warmth. I’ll share my family’s cherished recipes from the villages of Agia Anargiri and Anthousa in Kozani. Recipes are passed down through generations.
So, which cookie team are you on? I’ll admit my bias for team kourabiedes!
Melomakarona (Greek Walnut and Honey Cookies)
Behold the melomakarona – the crown jewel of Greek Christmas cookies! Their essence of cinnamon and orange infuses the soft dough with a succulent aroma before bathing it in sweet honey syrup. Finally, they are crowned with crushed walnuts for added crunch.
Pronounced meh-loh-mah-KAH-roh-nah, the name melomakarona comes from the Greek words “meli” for honey and “makaria” for blessings. These flavor symphonies have been esteemed in religious ceremonies since ancient times. Their name intimates the blessing of their sweetness.
For the Cookies
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 and a half cups sugar
- 1 cup orange juice
- 3 teaspoons cinnamon
- 7 ½ cups flour
- 3 teaspoons baking powder
- Half a teaspoon of vanilla extract
For the Syrup
- 1 cup honey
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- Preheat the oven between 350-365 degrees F.
- With a mixer in a large bowl, mix sugar and butter for 5-10 minutes.
- In another bowl, sift flour and mix with the baking powder. Then add the flour gradually, with the oil, oj, vanilla extract, while stirring with a wooden spoon. Do not add all of it at once, stir with the spoon and add flour until you have soft and shiny dough, it should not be dry. Knead the dough just a bit until it comes together.
- Roll the dough in little balls about the size of a walnut. Using your fingers press one side of the ball on a grater flattening like a small pancake or pierce with a fork and then fold over so that the cookie is in an oval shape, with the top having the grater’s design. This is done so that the honey will be better absorbed instead of just shaping the cookie in a solid oval shape.
- Place the cookies on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for about 25-28 minutes. Bake the rest of the cookies.
Once all the cookies are baked, let them cool down completely.
- For the syrup, boil the honey, syrup, water, cinnamon stick, and a slice of lemon and let it boil for 5 minutes. Remove the foam that forms on top with a spoon.
- Once the syrup is boiled, while it is hot, pour it over the cold cookies, making sure all cookies are covered with syrup. Let the cookies sit for at least 1 minute with the top side facing down to absorb the syrup.
- Mix the walnuts with cinnamon, turn over on the melomakarona right side again, and sprinkle over the melomakarona.
- Place the melomakarona on a large platter.
Makes about 50 or so cookies.
Kourabiedes (Greek Almond Cookies)
Kourabiedes melt in your mouth like shortbread, with the added nuttiness of ground almonds. These traditional Greek butter cookies take on a snowball shape, perfect for serving up holiday charm.
Their name comes from the Greek word “kourambiedes,” meaning powdered cookies, a nod to their typically powdered sugar coating. Beyond Christmas, they are also served for major life events – from weddings to baptisms – always promising sweetness!
- 2 cups butter at room temperature or 450 g butter at room temperature
- 1 1/2 cups of icing sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 ⁄ 2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1 ⁄ 4 teaspoon salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 3-4 cups of flour
- 1 1⁄2 cups almonds, chopped and roasted or, for better results, slivered almonds
- 1 fresh lemon for zest
- 1 tablespoon of zest
- 3 tablespoons of Jack Daniels whisky
- Cream the butter and sugar in a mixer for 15 minutes until it turns white. Mix in the baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
- Add the egg yolks, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and whisky, and gradually add the flour until you have a dough that is neither too soft nor too firm (you may need to add slightly more than the amount I’ve written); stir in the almonds.
- Let the dough stand for 25 minutes at room temperature, covered with a clean dish towel.
- Next, with small amounts (about 1 1/2 teaspoons of dough), shape small rounds by gently rolling the dough between the palms of your hands. You may also use cookie cutters in any shape you like.
- Arrange the round cookies on a buttered pan and flatten them slightly on top with your hand. This is to form a little indent holding the powdered sugar on top of the cookie.
- Bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes.
- Roll the hot cookies in icing sugar to cover and let cool.
- When cool, arrange on a pretty holiday platter, sieving more icing sugar between the cookie layers to give a snowdrift effect.
Don’t forget to share these treasures with the people that you love!