18.11.08

honey-dipped Christmas cookies (μελομακάρονα)


My favourite time of year is here.  Christmas season.  One of our greatest traditions during this festive period is baking cookies and biscuits, of all sorts.  The most popular tend to be this ridiculously scrumptious shortbread dusted with powdered sugar called kourabiedes, and the elegant semolina cookies dipped in warm honey syrup spiced with cinnamon and covered in walnuts - melomakarona.

My mother's melomakarona and kourabiedes are legendary in our Greek community back in America.  Posts in the next few weeks will highlight these recipes.  I will also try to get my wonderful friend and science colleague Filitsa who's a master in the kitchen to provide me with her aunt's very old and very awesome recipe of melomakarona.  She made a batch this weekend and brought it into lab yesterday.  Needless to say, they were gorgeous.  The cookie itself had the perfect amount of syrup, and despite the richness of the honey, there was a certain lightness, attributed most likely to the semolina she used.

For now, here's one recipe I discovered a few years ago from one of the most prominent Greek chefs living in America right now - Aglaia Kremezi.

1 1/4cups light olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups fine semolina

SYRUP

1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 cups water
1 large piece of orange peel
1 large piece of lemon peel
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
2 teaspoons finely ground cloves

MAKES ABOUT 50

Using an electric mixer, beat the olive oil with the sugar. Add the orange juice. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups flour with the baking powder, and add to the oil and orange mixture. Beat with the electric mixer adding the branddy, semolina, orange and lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and start kneading, adding more flour, to obtain a soft and elastic dough. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Take tablespoonfuls of dough and shape into oval cookies about 2 1/2 inches long. Press them on the top with the back of a fork to mark them with horizontal lines. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack overnight. The next day make the honey syrup. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, and water and bring to a boil. Add the orange and lemon peels and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place 2 or 3 cookies on a large slotted spoon and dip them in the syrup. Don't let them soak in it; they should absorb only a little syrup, and remain crunchy. Place layers of honey-dipped Melomakarona on a serving dish. Mix the walnuts with the ground cloves, and sprinkle over the cookies. Let cool completely before serving. They keep well for about 10 days.

4 comments:

Maria said...

Geia sou Yianni! Thanks so much for visiting my site, it's great to "meet" you.
Ta melomakarova einai ap ta liga glyka pou den ehw ftiaxei akomi. Mou fainete fetos tha einai h seira tous.

asya yusof said...

oh my good i know this cookies i love them.
i made and traslate them in turkis my mom use the make for as when we are little
here is the link
http://benimmutfagim.net/2007/05/18/melomokarona/

Yannis said...

Hey guys,
Great to hear from you both!
Asya Yusof, can you please please translate this recipe! It looks fantastic (your blog is awesome).

Maria mou, xarika.....xaneis, xaneis...you must make them. Your kitchen will smell fantastic!

puppymomma said...

Those look so wonderful and so different from any cookies I've ever made.

I'm going to save this recipe for next year and make a point to make them in my annual Chirstmas cookie packages!

Thanks for sharing!

Meryl (Inspired Bites)